Wall Street remains a very rocky road

first_imgThe dollar was higher against other major currencies except for the yen. Gold, though traditionally a safe-haven investment, continued its slide. Oil prices dropped sharply on the possibility that stocks’ decline could dampen demand, but they lifted from earlier lows below $60 a barrel to finish down $1.57 at $60.07 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The market saw the bulk of its drop right before the close, in a similar pattern to Friday, when the Dow flirted with gains only to drop 120 points late in the day. Going forward, market participants won’t be ruling out the possibility of a large, late-day swing. “Probably it’s better to save any judgment on this market today until the last half hour,” said Philip S. Dow, managing director of equity strategy at RBC Dain Rauscher in Minneapolis, before the markets closed Monday. He noted that little has changed in terms of economic fundamentals, but that the market is very volatile. Stock investors appeared to have been somewhat consoled by comments attributed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson by Japan’s finance minister, Koji Omi. Neither Omi nor Paulson, who began a three-nation Asian tour in Tokyo on Monday, were concerned by the swings in regional stock markets, Omi told reporters in Tokyo. Both men contend the market mechanism was functioning well, Omi said. Still, Asian and European stocks closed lower, keeping U.S. investors on edge. The Nikkei fell for the fifth straight session to close down 3.3 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 4 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index, which has been volatile in recent weeks, fell 1.6 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.94 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 1.04 percent, and France’s CAC-40 declined 0.73 percent. The Institute for Supply Management’s report on the services sector failed to inject much confidence in the market. The index registered at 54.3 for February, lower than analysts’ forecast of 57.5 and January’s reading of 59.0. Still, the reading above 50 indicates that U.S. service industries continue to grow, albeit at a modest pace. Market participants are bracing for a rocky week, especially as investors await the Labor Department’s jobs report Friday. So far, economic data have been coming in mixed, suggesting a moderating growth but not recession.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – Wall Street seesawed through an erratic session Monday, trying to stabilize but ultimately finishing near its lows of the day amid worries about mortgage defaults, a strengthening yen and tumbling stock markets abroad. The major indexes fluctuated throughout the session, with the Dow Jones industrials bobbing between positive and negative territory as investors tried to size up where the market was headed after last week’s big decline. The Dow finished 63 points lower, having fallen in eight of the past nine sessions. The market remained jittery about losses over soured subprime loans, or loans to customers with poor credit ratings. HSBC Holdings PLC, Europe’s largest bank, said its 2006 earnings rose 5 percent but that it suffered $10.6 billion in losses on bad loans from its U.S. subprime mortgage operations. Also pushing stocks down, a rising yen added to concerns about an erosion of the yen carry trade, which is the process of borrowing the low-yielding yen to acquire assets in other currencies with greater yields. A slowdown could hurt liquidity worldwide. By late in the day, the U.S. dollar was at 116 yen, trading near three-month lows after falling from above 120 yen less than a week ago. Though the markets were uneasy Monday, they were hardly out of control as the Dow traded within a 150-point range and stayed above the 12,000 mark, which it had surpassed for the first time in October last year. “Stability is a good sign,” said Todd Salamone, senior vice president of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati. He noted that stocks could see volatility for months, but that over the long term, the market looks poised to climb. “Expectations for economic data, earnings data – both have been ratcheted lower. Markets tend to do better when expectations are low, because they have better odds for positive surprises.” The Dow fell 63.69, or 0.53 percent, to 12,050.41, having swung 75 points lower and 75 higher than Friday’s close in earlier trading. The blue chips have now fallen 581 points, or 4.6 percent, from their closing price last Monday, the day before the market’s plunge. Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 13.05, or 0.94 percent, at 1,374.12, and the Nasdaq composite index – which is dominated by riskier technology and small-cap stocks – dropped 27.32, or 1.15 percent, to 2,340.68. Bond prices fell, nudging the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to 4.51 percent from 4.50 percent late Friday, as the stock market’s tolerable performance earlier in the day kept investors from rushing to Treasurys. last_img read more