What's Next for Stocks, Gold After Rout?

Morning Business Memo…

This could be recovery day for a still strong stock market after the biggest one-day plunge in five months. Worries about an economic slowdown in China played a role in triggering the 265 point drop for the Dow Jones index. But that wasn't all. The commodities plunge clearly led to a case of the jitters. The Dow fell 1.8 percent after months of solid gains. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq averages were both down more than 2 percent. Stock futures clawed back some of the losses this morning.

A dizzying price plunge took the shine off gold as a perceived safe haven investment and could even lead to more gains for stocks as investors seek alternatives. This morning gold futures rose $30 an ounce after yesterday's loss $140 an ounce loss. The 9.4 percent decline was the worst day for gold in 30 years.

For years the value of gold soared to fresh highs as its boosters fretted over the risk of hyper-inflation with the Fed's aggressive moves to cut interest rates. But despite aggressive moves by central banks in the US, Europe and now Japan, inflation has remained low. And the latest tumble for precious metals may have damaged the case for any eventual return to the gold standard.

Financial journalist Neil Irwin, author of the new book on central bankers, "The Alchemists," says linking the dollar to the value of gold would not be a good idea. "Rigidity in the gold standard is a big factor in why the Great Depression was great." That was back in the 1930's. Irwin tells ABC News that today's money system is more flexible than relying on gold. "The amount of money floating around out there can be adjusted to try and keep prices stable even as the price of gold can rise and fall and the price of financial assets goes up and down."

Apple was once the stock market's equivalent of gold. But no longer. The long decline in Apple's share price has reached a new low. After hitting $700 last September, Apple has tumbled to less than $420 - a fall of 40 percent from its peak. Anyone who bought Apple shares in the past year has lost money. Once seen as the ultimate growth stock, some investors have dumped Apple shares, convinced its best days are over. Apple's quarterly earnings will be released next week.

CEO pay continues to grow at a faster rate than average employee compensation. According to the AFL-CIO, chief executives at America's biggest companies earned an average of over $12 million last year. That's 354 times more than a typical American worker. The average wage is just under $35,000, according to the trade union group.

Concerns about JC Penney are growing. The retailer announced it would draw $850 million from its $1.85 billion revolving credit line to pay for restocking its shelves. Penney, which fired its CEO last week, may be burning through cash faster than expected.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc

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