The Dow Jones Industrial average plummeted below 7,000 Monday for the first time in more than 11 years as investors grew even more negative about the health of the economy. A stunning $61.7 billion quarterly loss at insurer American International Group ( AIG) touched off fresh fears about the country's financial system and sent the company onto TheStreet.com's top ten most searched stocks list. The Treasury Department has created a new $30 billion equity capital facility in exchange for non-cumulative preferred stock in AIG, in addition to the $150 billion it has already lent the insurer. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve also outlined a massive restructuring plan for AIG's existing debt, easing up on terms and accepting payment in the form of preferred stakes in relatively healthy subsidiaries.
AIG's troubles were felt across the financial sector, battering shares of money-center banks including Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C), Wells Fargo ( WFC) and JP MorganChase ( JPM). All four banking giants joined AIG on the top ten most searched stocks list. At nearly $74,000 a share Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK-A) is the most expensive stock on the market, as well as the top ten list. The Oracle of Omaha admitted his vision was a bit blurry in 2008 with Berkshire falling 32%. Not helping today's market was Buffett's annual letter to investors in which he write he is sure "the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 -- and, for that matter, probably well beyond -- but that conclusion does not tell us whether the stock market will rise or fall."
Next up, General Electric ( GE) which saw its shares slide to a 16-year low Monday after the industrial conglomerate cut its quarterly dividend for the first time in decades. On Friday, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said it will pay shareholders a dividend of 10 cents beginning in the third quarter, down from the company's prior dividend of 31 cents. Oil fell due to worry about global demand, but BP ( BP) rose onto the most search stocks list. BP, which is a member of Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Portfolio, now yields close to 9%. The SPDR Gold ( GLD) exchange traded fund was essentially flat on Monday while stocks overall sold off. The gold ETF joins the list as investors grow more fearful over the banking sector. Finally, consumer spending rose in January after falling for a record six straight months, pushed higher by purchases of food and other nondurable items. That elevated Wal-Mart ( WMT) to the most searched list. The nation's largest retailer reported better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter as it appeared to benefit from a wave of store liquidations at former competitors such as Circuit City.