At last check, the Dow was down 20.2 percent from its intraday high set in October. Anything over 20 percent is generally considered a bear market. So welcome to bear land - and be prepared to stay a while. Oil has hit $142 a barrel - breaking out of that $130-$140 range some folks had seen as evidence of a peak. So much for that dream. Oil is really turning out to be the tipping point on this one (as it usually is). Sure, there are still big-time credit problems of unknown magnitude, but when folks are stuck paying $5 a gallon for gas, there's really no place to hide. Over at Money & Co. Tom Petruno spoke to trader Bill Strazzullo, who warned his clients back in March that there would be more bloodletting.
Strazzullo doubts that the market is going to turn sharply higher anytime soon, even if it gets a dose of good news. For one thing, he notes that many investors who bought into the spring bounce -- and now are under water -- may be eager to exit at the first uptick in prices. Once bitten, twice shy, after all. Itís the fundamentals that really worry him, though. He sees the American consumer as severely strapped financially, a view that was validated by the latest consumer confidence report this week. "Consumers have never been this insecure," Strazzullo said. That may not be a novel thought, but I think itís one that more people on Wall Street are just beginning to ponder. As for new help for the economy or the markets from Congress or the Federal Reserve, "There are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat," Strazzullo said, echoing what even many market bulls will concede.