Market Meltdown: Is It Black Friday?

Is today Black Friday?

In its opening minutes, the Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 700 points, dipping below 8,000 for the first time since March 2003. But then the market reversed, turning positive just for a few minutes after 10 a.m. It then hovered just above and below that mark in the first hour of trading. By 11:30 though, the Dow was back down nearly 400 points.

Things didn't improve as the day went on. By 2 p.m., the Dow had once again fallen below 8,000, down more than 550 points. But the end of the day, things turned positive with stocks up more than 200 points by 3:30 p.m. But in the end, the gains didn't hold with the Dow losing more than 100 points.

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Global markets remain inconsolable with markets in Asia closing sharply down and European markets trading significantly lower. Markets around the world appear to be caught in a slow-moving crash, which could pick up speed today as investors call their brokers looking for a way out of the free fall.

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The momentum here is for a continued sell-off. The VIX -- an index that shows fear in the markets -- ticked to its all-time high at the end of the trading day Thursday, signaling continued turbulence in the U.S. markets.

Thursday's anniversary of the stock market peak turned into one of the worst days in Wall Street history, with the Dow Jones industrials losing a breathtaking 679 points. A year to the day after its highest close ever the Dow closed down nearly 40 percent since that record.

World Markets Down

Japan's Nikkei closed down nearly 10 percent to close out its worst week in history. The Nikkei has lost nearly a quarter of its value this week.

In Australia, where the S&P/ASX200 plummeted a record 8.3 percent, market watchers were calling it "Black Friday."

Trading was halted in Austria, Thailand and Indonesia because of steep declines after the opening bell.

European stocks are trading sharply lower, early in the trading day.

U.S., EU Consider Next Step

The U.S. government is weighing two dramatic steps to repair ailing financial markets: guaranteeing billions of dollars in bank debt and temporarily insuring all U.S. bank deposits, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The move to back all U.S. bank deposits would be aimed at preventing a further exodus of cash from financial institutions as Americans contemplate withdrawing cash and sticking it under the mattress.

U.S. banks like Washington Mutual and IndyMac collapsed in part because of a slow run on their banks. Offering unlimited or steeply higher deposit-insurance limits in the United States would closely resemble what several European countries, including Germany, Denmark and Ireland, have done recently.

There is a growing consensus that the crisis is now so fast moving and harmful to the global economy that it demands an unprecedented degree of worldwide coordination, The New York Times reports.

What's Next?

Investors are keeping a close eye on a crisis meeting of Group of 7 finance ministers in Washington today.

"The sharks are circling closer to Morgan Stanley," said the Wall Street Journal. The investment bank's shares fell 26 percent as investors appeared concerned about the announced deal -- a $9 billion investment by Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Morgan Stanley is suffering in part because of the freeze in the debt markets, which worsened after Lehman's bankruptcy filing.

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