Stocks plunge along with oil

Dow closes down nearly 400 points

SAN ANTONIO – From the stock market’s opening bell Friday it was one bad day. And then it got worse.

The Dow plunged more than 500 points just before noon before a volatile afternoon that saw the markets close down 391 points.

What’s going on?

“Today, it’s sort of all about energy,” said Jim Kee, chief economist with South Texas Money Management. “People are wondering where the bottom is.”

Oil prices continued to spiral downward to just over $29 a barrel, the lowest in 12 years.

While falling crude prices are great for consumers at the gas pump, they are brutal on energy stocks. And it appears all that gas money consumers are saving was not being spent at the stores.

Retail sales numbers for December were less than expected, adding to the January jitters.

The other big culprit: China. The Chinese markets got clobbered and Wall Street followed suit.

For investors watching their 401(k)s and college savings plans shrink, Kee says, don’t panic.

“If you are invested in stocks, my advice is to lift your gaze. Remember your horizon is three, four, five years and beyond for stocks,” he said.

However, for investors very near retirement, these are anxious times.

People needing their nest eggs or other investments within a couple years should have them in safer havens as a general rule, according to Kee.

Down days are to be expected, according to Kee.

“The truth is, if there weren’t days like today, you’d never make any more money in the stock market that you would in a money market account,” he said.

While there is no crystal ball, Kee anticipates the rocky road to continue through the first quarter, but end the year in positive territory. 

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