Investors Handle Market Turmoil In Different Ways The stock market's best known indicator, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, took investors on a wild ride last week, ending almost exactly where it started. The Dow lost more than 800 points over three days and then rebounded on news that the government is working on a rescue plan. Some investors pulled their money out of stocks, while others concluded it was best to just sit tight.

Investors Handle Market Turmoil In Different Ways

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The stock market took investors on a wild ride last week, but, like a rollercoaster, the Dow Jones Industrial average ended up exactly where it started, almost. Now, different investors handled the gut churning swings in very different ways. Some lept out of their investments, and as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, many others just hung on for dear life.

FRANK LANGFITT: Alexander Chapman(ph) was doing OK until Wednesday night.

Mr. ALEXANDER CHAPMAN: I was watching CNBC, and they started talking about the problem with the financials and the market liquidity. And then they said, you know, this affects the money markets, too, because some of the money markets have these financial stocks in them. And I said, oh, I thought money markets were the safe place you could put your money.

LANGFITT: So, did almost everyone else. But last week, one money market fund told customers that each dollar they had invested was now worth only 97 cents. And that scared a lot of people. Chapman is a retired database and security consultant who lives in Washington, D.C. He lay awake that night until four a.m. Chapman couldn't wait for his broker's office to open so he could shift his holdings into safer government bonds.

Mr. CHAPMAN: I've got this view in my mind of a scene like it's from "A Wonderful Life," you know, with Jimmy Stewart. Everybody down there with their papers in their hand, demanding short-term treasuries.

LANGFITT: Those crowds never materialized. By Thursday, the sense of crisis was beginning to ebb. But earlier in the week, Chapman's broker, Charles Schwab, was inundated with calls. Brian Lipps(ph) runs the Schwab branch on Washington's K Street.

Mr. BRIAN LIPPS (Head, Charles Schwab & Co, K Street Washington, DC): People needed a lot of reassurance. We sort of did a lot of hand holding around, you know, really, the stability, not just these institutes, but the whole system.

LANGFITT: Lipps said retirees like Chapman just wanted a safe place to put their money. Many of the conversations went like this.

Mr. LIPPS: I don't want any money markets at all, unless it's treasuries. So, they just want nothing but treasuries, or they just want to go to cash, no return, just cash. Bury it in the backyard. I mean, it's the same thing.

LANGFITT: But other investors, young and old, brushed off the Dow's peaks and valleys. Virginia Parks(ph) works for a lobbying firm on Capitol Hill. I asked her if she'd been worried.

Ms. VIRGINIA PARKS: I don't think so. I'm so young right now that I'm just building a portfolio. So, I really don't have anything to lose.

LANGFITT: May I ask how old you are?

Ms. PARKS: Sure, 23.

LANGFITT: OK, so you're not planning on retiring for?

Ms. PARKS: With this market, maybe 60 years. I don't know.

Mr. ALLAN BELL (Retired Middle Manager, UPS): I tend to review day to day events in the market as just so much entertainment.

LANGFITT: That's Allan Bell(ph). He retired more than a decade ago as a middle manager with United Parcel Service. He lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, and takes a long term approach to investing. His portfolio was down eight percent through June. I asked him if he changed his holdings.

Mr. BELL: Not this year.

LANGFITT: Really? Why not?

Mr. BELL: I like what I'm holding. My tendency is to buy carefully and sell reluctantly, so I've got to have a compelling reason to look at something I've got and say I want something different. I may have that at the end of this war.

LANGFITT: After Wall Street's gyrations last week, some investors were already thinking about switching from defense to offense. Gary Outes(ph) is a pilot with American Airlines. He's 38 years old.

Mr. GARY OUTES (Pilot, American Airlines): I was tempted to go and start buying some things today, but I haven't done that yet, either. I might kind of let the dust settle a little bit and take another look at it next week.

LANGFITT: The New York Stock Exchange opens as usual at 9:30 tomorrow morning. And the thrill ride that has been the markets starts all over, again. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.