Stocks fall to 1997 levels as recession fears grip markets; Dow drops 250

Remember 1997? Investors who put their money in an S&P 500 index fund in April of that year would have made a killing if they sold at the market's peak a year-and-a-half ago.

If they sold today, they made nothing. Today, the S&P 500 fell 3.47 percent to 743 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 3.41 percent to 7,115, its lowest since October 1997, as energy and mining companies' shares tanked thanks to fears the recession will drag on for the foreseeable future.

All three major indices -- including the Nasdaq, which lost 3.71 percent to end at 1,388 -- closed lower for the seventh straight day. For once, though, banks weren't the culprit: Both Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) posted gains as government officials said they were ready to give further aid to troubled financial companies. As Jon Ogg at Bloggingstocks noted, General Electric (GE) also took a hit.
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