|A gallon of gas at this service station in California costs more than a share of General Motors stock. (PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Big-name companies' stocks in discount bin
In the surest sign of the depth of the recession, the products associated with these high-profile companies now cost more than buying a piece of the business.
Shares of some of the most renowned companies have come under assault as the worst recession in decades saps investor confidence and drags major stock indexes to their lowest levels since 1997. Despite yesterday's 3 percent gain, the Dow Jones industrial average is still off almost 50 percent from its 2007 high - and there's little evidence it's hit bottom.
"This is a time for the history books," said Jim Coons of Coons Advisors, a financial consultant.
When the housing bubble began to burst, share prices began to cascade first in the home building industry, but it spread quickly throughout the economy.
Banks, stung by plummeting mortgage values, followed. A share of Citigroup Inc. which cost $55.66 at the beginning of 2007, now costs $2.60. ATM fees can total $3 or more.
Since the start of 2007, shares in companies from every sector have been hit.
General Motors shares have fallen from $30.30 to $2.22, less than the cost of a standard spark plug (about $3.79).
The New York Times Co. shares have fallen from $24.27 to $3.95, cheaper than the $4 cost of its Sunday edition.
General Electric Co. shares fell from $30.30 to $9.08, cheaper than a GE two-slice bagel toaster at Wal-Mart, selling yesterday for $12.
Office Depot is down from $38.27 to $1.26, less than a 12-pack of pens that runs $1.89.
The bargain-basement stock prices of America's best known companies present either the greatest opportunity of a lifetime - or the biggest money pit this side of the Great Depression.
Many didn't survive then and many won't survive now. Someone who bought shares of Circuit City for a little more than $2 at the end of July would have been better off with a two-pack of AA batteries. The shares ran out of juice in November when the retailer filed for bankruptcy.
The company is now selling furniture and fixtures from its headquarters as it liquidates.