Investors watch $500 billion slip away in one day

September 22, 2011: 5:34 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Investors watched $500 billion disappear from the stock market Thursday, putting the week's losses at $1.1 trillion.

The Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, the broadest index of U.S. stocks, lost 401.87 points, or just over 3%, Thursday as investors fled risky assets. That's the biggest drop since August 18 and represents a paper loss for the day of approximately $500 billion.

The plunge on Thursday came as European debt jitters and worries about the health of the global economy pummeled markets around the world. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), the S&P 500 (SPX) and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) all slid more than 3% during the session. The Dow has now fallen almost 7% over the past four days and is on track for its worst weekly performance since September 2008.

Thursday was the second day in a row that the Wilshire Index fell more than 300 points, marking the worst back-to-back decline in more than two years. For the two days, the index is down more than 6% -- meaning investors have lost $900 billion since Wednesday morning.

For the week, the Wilshire index is down 7%, and nearly 8% this month. For the quarter, the index has dropped 15% -- meaning investors have watched $2.5 trillion disappear in the market.

Investors' portfolios may look depressing based on this year's performance. Investments fell 11% and lost about $1.7 trillion in the market. Still, they look a little rosier compared to 2009.

Since the low of March 9, 2009, the index has recovered a whopping $6 trillion -- a 73% increase. To top of page

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