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Less than a year after the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

awed investors by surmounting the 10,000 mark, it captured their attention once again by threatening to close below that big round number Thursday.

But the fall of the once-mighty Dow did not seem to shake the bullishness of many money managers and average investors, who in recent months have focused instead on the

Nasdaq Composite Index


The Dow closed down 133.10, or 1.3%, at 10,092.63 after trading as low as 9942.78. The average has not closed below 10,000 since April 6, nor has it traded below that number since Oct. 18.

Still, the Dow is now down 14% from its closing high of 11,722.98 on Jan. 14, and its flirtation with 10,000 on the downside Thursday could be a continuation -- or the end -- of its recent selloff.

But how much do generally optimistic investors really care?

For the last four or five years, there's been a "pervasiveness of bullish sentiment," said Carl Bhathena, a vice president and market strategist with

Holland Capital Management

. He acknowledged that Dow 10,000 is an important psychological level, and "it's natural to see some market correction when valuations are high and there's talk of interest rates on the short and long end moving up."

However, "after the leaders correct beyond a certain point, investors become bullish again," Bhathena said. "The bullishness hasn't diminished yet."

An exemplar of that bullishness is Chris Lombardo, who said, "When it goes below that, everyone knows it's going to go up again." A clerk with

Lawrence Helfant

, Lombardo works on the floor of the

New York Stock Exchange


But not everyone is free of jitters. "My personal sense is the market is better balanced and less likely to crash," said Ian Hall, a British national on holiday in the U.S. "But the U.S. market is very nervous, and it wouldn't take much to go into free fall." A former employee of


, Hall is self-employed and was visiting the NYSE with his son Scott, who is "intensely" interested in becoming a stockbroker.

What has actually diminished, perhaps, is the importance of the Dow, which tracks just 30 blue-chip companies. "The Nasdaq Composite Index has really taken over as the focus of the public's attention, certainly for the last four months," said Bruce Bittles, market strategist at

J.C. Bradford


The Nasdaq comprises mainly technology and telecommunications companies, and Thursday it continued its divergence from the Dow, closing up 67.32, or 1.5%, at 4617.65.

"While the Dow falling below 10,000 is not a pleasant feeling, it won't create a panic," Bittles said. "I don't think it makes a difference unless the Dow pulls the Nasdaq down with it. Then there will be investor apprehension."

The man on the street echoed Bittles' sentiments. "I'm just worried about the Nasdaq having the same correction that the Dow is having," said Rich Casale, a

Chase Manhattan


employee interviewed at a

Charles Schwab

office downtown.

But when all's said and done, "as long as



around, I don't think there will be a crash," Hall added, in praise of the

Federal Reserve