WASHINGTON -- Admittedly, there are many similarities: In both 1929 and 2008, the stock market lost much of its value. Investors borrowed huge sums to buy assets that plummeted in worth. Banks teetered on the brink of collapse. Auto sales nosedived.

The U.S. economy contracted by a steep 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter last year, and more than 5 million jobs have vanished since December 2007. Still, most financial experts believe the nation is unlikely to plunge into the dizzying economic depths of the 1930s, when double-digit unemployment rates and soup lines were the norm.

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