For 32 years, Arne Huhta has counseled countless clients on what to do with their money. Through it all, he says, his advice has never strayed on one subject.
"I have always said there are no experts in the stock market," the 78-year-old broker said Monday, three hours after the Dow Jones Industrial Average took its biggest plunge ever.
Huhta was one of 31 financial consultants in the Rolling Hills Estates office of Shearson Lehman Brothers who spent most of Monday on the phone, answering questions from anxious clients and wondering just how far down the market would go.
"Right now there is sort of a shock" among brokers, office manager William Daugherty said shortly after the market closed on Monday. "I don't know of anyone who expected this kind of firestorm."
Daugherty said that as the market began its plunge Monday, it was like watching history through a desk-top computer terminal.
"Mostly it was hypnotic," he said. "You'd see someone sitting at their desk and staring. It is almost like watching a building collapsing. You don't want to see anyone get hurt, but it is amazing to watch."
As the market began tumbling early last week, transactions in the office began to climb, Daugherty said. On Oct. 12, brokers handled 123 transactions; by Friday, the number had almost tripled to 330. They had 440 transactions Monday and more than 600 on Tuesday.
Although Daugherty said he did not know how many transactions were sales and how many were buy orders, "you'd have to believe there was a lot more selling than buying."
Despite the drop, Daugherty--as well as several other local brokers who did not want to be identified--said their clients were not panicking, and some were buying stock. Indeed, a broker at a Shearson competitor in the South Bay said his clients Monday placed more buy orders than sell orders.
As for the advice they were offering clients, the brokers said that depended on the individual investor. However, Daugherty said, "if he is paralyzed with fear, can't get to sleep and is beating his children, he needs to get out of the market."
Huhta, who advised younger stockbrokers in his office to keep a scrapbook on the market to record its gyrations, waxed philosophical: "I don't feel the world has come to an end."