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After market’s unraveling, an arduous recovery

Theodore (Teddy) Weisberg, left, of Seaport Securities Corp., Michael Sollitto, center, of Banc of America Specialist, Inc. and Arthur ‘Art’ Cashin of UBS Financial Services Inc. sing the depression-era song ‘Wait Til The Sun Shines Nelly’ on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday.


NEW YORK — After a year of devastating losses, the stock market has the makings of a recovery in 2009: Nearly $9 trillion in cash on the sidelines, waiting to be invested.

But before investors can feel comfortable diving back in, they’ll need to overcome the chilling effects of a recession and their distrust of how Wall Street operates.

“So many people have been so badly damaged,” said Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities, who has spent nearly 49 years monitoring the market.

Goldman said he’s never seen despair worse than it was in late November. Indeed, that’s a sign the market has hit bottom. And as mood improves, he said, some of December’s record $8.9 trillion in money supply, as measured by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, could be funneled back into stocks, bonds and other investments.

Fear on the part of investors and consumers alike could make the process slow and choppy next year.

Gavin Rampersaud, who lives in New York with his wife, bought land in Florida in 2005 as an investment property, and it has fallen in value from about $80,000 to $20,000. And he still has his New York mortgage to pay.

“We’ve already cut back a lot. We don’t go out as much,” Rampersaud said. “Investing? We’re tight as it is.”

Decades from now, economic professors may well point to 2008 as the year capitalism went on life support. Home prices sank further than any mortgage lender could have imagined. Banks including Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Washington Mutual Inc. failed, and many others received government funding or were bought up in desperate shotgun deals.

As investors recoiled and cashed out even their safe assets to build up reserves, the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled by as much as 47 percent from its October 2007 record. The stock market’s drop between October 2007 and November 2008 wiped out more than $10 trillion in stockholder wealth.

Governments around the world have shoved trillions of dollars into the financial system, primarily by offering and guaranteeing various types of loans and investing in troubled companies. Signs are emerging that these rescue plans are beginning to stick.

But getting U.S. stocks moving higher again — let alone back to their 2007 levels — is going to be a long haul.

The credit crunch is forcing large investors from the super-rich to hedge funds to pension funds to governments to take on less risk. And after the news came out that investment adviser and former Nasdaq stock market chairman Bernard Madoff allegedly bilked clients out of $50 billion through a fraudulent fund, investors have even more reason to adhere to safer, tried-and-true strategies.

“Bernie Madoff has created a real issue for high net worth individuals, and it reaches around the world,” said Robert Howell, a finance professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business

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