Investors terrified but also optimistic

As stocks continue to fall, some average investors say they are shocked the market hasn't hit bottom yet, while others insist it's not so bad.

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By Aaron Smith, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- As the markets plunged again on Friday, the reactions from working people, business owners and investors ranged from optimism to despair.

In Times Square, pedestrians paused to peer through the display window of the Nasdaq office to watch the falling stock prices.

"I'm shocked that it's that bad this morning," said Marc Hasrouny, the owner of a machine tool business in Montreal.

He said the U.S. dollar, which plunged against the yen but climbed versus most other currencies -- including the Canadian dollar -- was one of the few safe havens in recent trading.

"Your dollar is strong," said Hasrouny. "Everybody wants your dollar."

But not everybody is that confident about the American financial market.

The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 500 points at the start of trading but backed off its lows later on during the day. The Nasdaq was down about 3.5% in midday trading, while the S&P 500 fell more than 4%.

Some investors said the latest selloff was particularly disturbing given how far the markets have already dropped. The S&P 500 has plunged 27% since mid-September as the economic crisis has spread across the globe.

"I don't know where the bottom is," said Marawan El-Asfahani, an investor who owns a graphic design business in Toronto with his wife Alex. "I thought we were sitting on it, but it just keeps on dropping."

Hassim Illyas, a Manhattan diamond trader, worried over the stock performance of General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), Moody's Corp (MCO). and Yahoo!, (YHOO, Fortune 500) because he bought shares in those companies earlier this week.

Illyas said the market situation was "scary" and that he was particularly concerned by comments made by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan Thursday about the "credit tsunami" that had hit the markets.

"[Greenspan] said that only once in a century this happens," said Illyas. "We are into something really grave."

Market malaise doesn't just affect the pros on Wall Street. Stock declines have taken large bites out of 401(k) retirement plans and made waves through most sectors and are one of many reasons why unemployment is on the rise: 760,000 jobs have been lost so far this year, according to the Labor Department.

Rosa Perez, from Austin, Texas, said people are scaling back on luxuries as a result of the market slow-down.

"People are canceling dinner dates because the market is down," said Perez, who was getting her picture taken in front the Nasdaq window.

Dan Silverman, a management consultant based in Washington, D.C., said that people are "terrified" about losing their money, but he's optimistic that investors will "calm down" after the presidential election is resolved in November.

He said he's continuing to invest in his 401K because he's "buying at bargain rates," on the assumption that the markets will recover.

Silverman gestured at the hustle and bustle of Times Square, where tourists with shopping bags filed in and out of crowded stores, and insisted that the economy is still active.

"You heard all these horror stories about the Great Depression," said Silverman. "Look around. Does this look like the Great Depression?" To top of page

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