The Dow Jones Industrials dipped below the 11,000-mark briefly Friday for the first time in two years. Investors are concerned about the stability of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which together guarantee about $5 trillion worth of mortgages -- or about half of all debt in the United States.
Meanwhile, crude oil prices surged to yet another record high Friday and seemed poised to eclipse the psychologically important level of $150 per barrel in the not-too-distant future.
With the stock market in a downward spiral; and oil prices seemingly going nowhere but up, jittery investors were drawn to the relative safety of precious metals, where gold prices surged to a four-month high.
Of course, food prices also are on the rise, and this week that drew the attention of policymakers at this year's G8 Summit.
G8 leaders reaffirmed their year-old commitment to slash global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent in 2050. But no clear plan to cut emissions was determined during the summit and the role of top developing countries like India and China was not outlined.
President George W. Bush: "We made it clear and the other nations agreed that they must also participate in an ambitious goal with interim goals and interim plans to enable the world to successfully address climate change. And we made progress, significant progress toward a comprehensive approach."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the Group of Eight summit to agree on a "comprehensive package of measures" to tackle the fallout from soaring food costs. Some leaders also called on G8 nations with sufficient food stocks to release some quantities to help soaring demand and prices in developing countries.
A recent USDA report pegged the number of malnourished people in the world at 122 million in 2007. That figure represents the largest jump since USDA began measuring hunger statistics 16 years ago.
Domestically, high food prices are pinching a variety of consumers and companies including school lunch programs. The USDA supported services provide free or reduced-price meals for more than half of the nation's 60 million school children. But government subsidies often fall short of the estimated $3 per meal price tag. According to a School Nutrition Association study, many schools plan to cut staff and charge more for full-price meals starting this fall.