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Wall Street’s tumult worries some residents

POSTED: October 22, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Cars travel past businesses Friday on Main Street in Gainesville.

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While the economic outlook darkened even further with bad reports on layoffs and consumer confidence, Friday was one of the quietest days since the financial meltdown began a month ago. Wall Street’s tumultuous week turned out to be its best in five years.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 127 points Friday, but turned in the strong week because of two huge days of gains — a record 936-point jump on Monday and an increase of 401 points Thursday.

Friday still was marked by the huge swings that have become typical in recent weeks. At various points, the Dow was up nearly 300 points and down nearly 250, and it finished with a triple-digit move for the 22nd time in 25 trading sessions.

It’s those huge swings, the financial roller coaster, that are being noted on Main Street.

On Friday, The Times found people along Gainesville’s Main Street to be filled with uncertainty and hope that the November election might return stability to the topsy-turvy financial situation.

Andy Maddox, a 48-year-old public defender, said being given a day off every month in a Hall County furlough leaves him a bit uneasy.

"I think there is a sense of being more liquid, with less debt, and being much more mindful of spending," Maddox said.

Bill Lightfoot, a Brenau University business professor, said his habits have changed.

"You can’t help but think about making choices about how frequently you go shopping," Lightfoot said. "You try to consolidate trips to the store and look for other ways to conserve."

He said he also was looking at the cost of TV, Internet and telephone services to see who is offering the best bundled package.

David Sargent said he has watched the value of his retirement account go down in recent weeks.

"It’s lost quite a bit of value," Sargent said. "A confidence-builder is needed in the banking industry to get people back out there in the retail market and spending money."

Scott Dixon, a restaurant owner on Main Street, said he thinks about the future every day.

"You wonder what tomorrow will bring and if the markets will go up or down," Dixon said. "I think what we’re waiting for is to elect somebody, and at this point I almost don’t care who. Let’s just get stability back in the world."

Sue Thompson of Gainesville said she, too, longs for the return of some degree of normalcy.

"You worry about tomorrow and what is going to happen," she said. "You’re scared to purchase anything. I’m just waiting to see what happens after the election."

Carol Frankum Rylee of Gillsville, a retired teacher, said the news from Wall Street is often not good.
"When you get your stock statement and you look at them and they’re worthless, practically, compared to what they were," she said.

Judy Carlton, also a retired teacher, said she keeps an eye on the markets, because retirement funds are invested there.

"The retired teacher system is totally dependent on the stock market," Carlton said. "I’ve talked with other teachers, and we’ve had some sleepless nights about it."

Carlton, who retired before she could draw Social Security benefits, said she is just six months away from eligibility.

"Now, I wonder if that will be there," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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