Taking Stock
August 3, 2017

Wall Street rejoiced early Wednesday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average — a benchmark index of 30 U.S. companies — rose above 22,000 for the first time, then celebrated again when it closed above 22,000.

But fewer than 15 percent of Americans own individual stocks and about half of the country has no money invested in the stock market at all — not through a 401(k), IRA, mutual fund, or pension fund — according to Federal Reserve surveys and Gallup polls. Those people are probably not as excited about the Dow's new high-water mark, and its sprint northward from about 18,000 last November — the "Trump bump," sustained by robust corporate earnings.

"Only people with assets like stocks and houses are benefiting, and that's why this recovery has been weak," Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank, tells The New York Times. According to Gallup, 89 percent of households earning $100,000 or more have some amount invested in the market, versus only 21 percent of families earning $30,000 or less. Stock ownership is "heavily tilted toward rich guys: doctors, lawyers, accountants," Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, tells The Washington Post. "It's not the middle class."

That has always been true, but the disparity seems to have gotten worse after people were burned in the 2008 market crash. Before the crash, in 2007, 65 percent of Americans adults were invested in the stock market, versus 54 percent currently. Peter Weber

November 21, 2016

For the first time since last summer, all three major U.S. stock market indexes closed at record highs Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.47 percent, the Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 0.89 percent, and the S&P 500 Index advanced 0.75 percent, all surpassing previous intraday and closing records.

The surge followed a rise in oil prices as OPEC appeared to near a deal to lower production. "I don't know if it will happen, but the market certainly hopes that it will," Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth, told CNBC about the pending deal. The markets also saw a jump in technology, led by Facebook. Becca Stanek

January 20, 2016

U.S. stock markets opened to yet another dismal day Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 250 points, the Nasdaq Composite Index dropping 1.5 percent, and the S&P falling 1.5 percent to nearly its lowest level since 2014. The stock market's plummet follows the continuing decline of oil prices, which have now reached their lowest levels in over 12 years and are expected to continue falling following the lifting of sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports.

Early Wednesday, U.S. crude oil dropped to under $28 a barrel, which the Associated Press reports is an indication of the global economy slowing down. So far in 2016, the Dow is down more than 8 percent and global markets remain tumultuous. Becca Stanek

January 7, 2016

The Dow Jones dropped almost 400 points Thursday after the Chinese stock market tumbled again. China's CSI 300 index dropped 7.2 percent in its first 30 minutes of trading Thursday morning, prompting the market to close and marking the shortest day in its 25-year history. In the U.S., the S&P 500 closed down nearly 2.4 percent, the Nasdaq dropped 3 percent, and crude oil prices hit the lowest levels in 12 years, CNN Money reports.

The Chinese market's emergency closure Thursday marks its second this week. The U.S. is on track for the worst four-day start to a year on record, according to FactSet stats dating back to 1897, with the Dow down 5 percent so far in 2016. Becca Stanek

January 7, 2016

China's stock index plunged 7 percent Thursday, forcing the market to close for the day just 30 minutes after opening and marking the country's shortest trading day ever. The closure, triggered as an emergency measure when stocks drop beyond a certain speed, is China's second this week as stocks continue to fall in the world's second-largest economy for the sixth consecutive day.

China's tumble has prompted stocks to plunge in both the U.S. and Europe and the price of oil to drop to levels that Reuters reports haven't been "seen since the early 2000s." The Associated Press reports financial analysts predict China's volatility will continue for a few months, though not to this degree. Becca Stanek

October 14, 2015

When Walmart announced its $20 billion share repurchase plan, the world's largest retailer saw its market value drop nearly the same amount — putting the company's stock "on track for its worst one-day performance in more than 17 years," Reuters reported Tuesday. In total, the retailer's shares fell nearly 9 percent — "the equivalent of the entire market value of department-store chain Macy's," Quartz reports.

The plummet followed Walmart's revelation that "earnings per share would decline as much as 12 percent next fiscal year due to investment in technology, higher wages, and lower prices." The company had previously forecasted modest sales growth for 2016.

Walmart tried to spin the profit decline as "investment mode," describing itself as a "growth company." But, as Bloomberg reports one analyst wrote in a note to clients, "the outlook was far worse than anyone expected." Becca Stanek

August 26, 2015

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 400 points, or 2.6 percent, at Wednesday's opening bell. But after Tuesday's rollercoaster day, in which a spike of more than 400 points evaporated and the U.S. stock market closed down 200 points, investors are waiting to see if Wednesday's promising start will stick.

Markets in Europe were slightly higher Wednesday, but in China, stocks continued their free fall, closing down 1.3 percent. As evidenced by Tuesday's series of ups and downs, The New York Times reports that "volatility continue[s] to dominate global markets" as the world's economies look to rebound from a six-day slump. Becca Stanek

August 25, 2015

After U.S. stocks' worst day in four years, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 300 points shortly after the opening bell Tuesday. The sharp rebound "erases nearly all of yesterday's losses," Reuters reports. The recovery follows China's central bank's decision to cut its key interest rate to support growth.

At the closing bell Monday, stocks had risen from their more than 1,000-point drop in the morning, but still were down about 3.6 percent at 588 points. Analysts say stocks are expected to continue the upward climb throughout the day Tuesday. Becca Stanek

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