Many remember Alan Greenspans claim of irrational exuberance during the 1990's stock market run up. Now the market value has dropped about 40% from its peak and each day brings news of triple digit market losses. Foreclosures are up as well as joblessness and it's hard not to be afraid, especially for those in their mid-fifties who were hoping to retire in 5 to 10 years.
So is the world ending as we know it? Many people are thinking that way, claiming that this is the next Great Depression. The media claimed for over a year that we were in a recession despite the fact that the economy was still growing. Self fulfilling prophecies are part of the reality we deal with and as people are told that things are bad they change their behavior until things do become bad.
One contrarian is Warren Buffet who recently published an article recommending people buy now. I think that is exactly what smart investors need to do. Stocks have always come back. And some areas may have good real estate values where sellers have irrational pessimism (though I think that values will have to drop by 50% or more in some markets).