A top banking regulator tried to ease some concerns, saying banks and the housing sector had passed the worst part of their downturns.
"I think we're past the crisis stage. We're in the clean up stage now," Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said at a financial reform conference.
Bair said the FDIC was preparing a "test sale" of some troubled mortgage loans owned by banks probably in June to help guide the FDIC in developing a larger program that aims to buy toxic mortgages from banks as a way of boosting their ability to resume more normal lending.
On Wall Street, stocks ended higher on a volatile trading day with investors bouncing between worries about the worse-than-expected economic readings and stronger-than-expected earnings from Apple Inc., eBay Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and others. The Dow Jones industrial average added more than 70 points to 7,957.06.Finance officials from around the globe will hold three days of meetings in Washington starting Friday to review efforts to combat what the International Monetary Fund characterized this week as the most severe global economic slump since the Great Depression. The discussions will be a follow-up to a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations held in London on April 2.