Financial stocks struggled to find their footing Wednesday as two of the major indices treaded water.
Financial Sector Index added 0.2% at 8,829.68 with the help of names such as
quelled some investor trepidation regarding its financial problems.
At a Merrill Lynch-sponsored conference, the broker said it had cut its exposure to the ravaged CDO (collateralized debt obligation) market by more than half since August to $884 million. Bear also projects a mortgage-securities-related writedown of $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter -- lingering vestiges of
mammoth subprime problems that surfaced this summer. Still, the shot of confidence seemed to outweigh, as shares pushed 6.8% higher at $107.71.
climbed, as well, after the
New York Post
reported that it had successfully tapped
CEO John Thain
to replace Merrill's
recently ousted former Chief Stan O'Neal following the broker's
abominable third-quarter results. NYSE was expected to hold an emergency board meeting this afternoon.
Prior trading-floor rumors had Thain going either to Merrill or
, which also just
pushed out its CEO on the heels of a
plunging third-quarter profit. According to
, Merrill denied prior reports that it had previously offered the top job to
CEO Larry Fink.
Merrill shares bounced 4.4% to $59.47, Citi gained 1.2%, and Blackrock was lately up 1.4% at $198.31. NYSE traded in and out of the red but, recently, it ticked up 0.9% to $87.72.
, meanwhile, continued clawing its way back from Monday's
precipitous drop. An analyst with BMO Capital Markets called bankruptcy at the online broker "highly unlikely," per a
report, following the firm's warning regarding the
shrinking value of its asset-backed securities.
In addition, CEO Mitch Caplan yesterday
canceled his appearance at the above-mentioned Merrill conference, which could indicate a forthcoming management shakeup. E*Trade shares were surging 73 cents, or 14.6%, to $5.73.
, another online broker, said October daily average trades and total client assets surged from last year by 29% and 24%, respectively. In that month, as well,
reported daily average revenue trades soaring 64% year over year, and
said the value of its average daily trades had more than doubled to $17.2 million. Shares were up 2.4% or more.
Elsewhere in positive territory,
traded higher after saying that "excellent operating and financial performance" in Asia-Pacific and in the Middle East helped boost its third-quarter pretax profit vs. a year ago, even though the Britain-based bank also took a $3.4 billion loan-impairment hit in its U.S. Consumer Finance segment. Shares tacked on 0.9% to $89.58.
Greater Community Bancorp
had one of the sector's biggest price gains today, rocketing 38.9% to $20, after agreeing to sell itself to
for $21.40 a share. The $187 million stock-and-cash deal should close in the second calendar quarter of next year. Oritani slid 13.8%.
After climbing steadily for the past few days, the KBW Bank Index retreated 0.7% to 98.61, under pressure from the vast majority of its components. Two of these,
Bank of America
Marshall & Ilsley
, dragged lower despite seemingly positive developments.
BofA got a Punk Ziegel upgrade to buy, which cited its investment in China Construction Bank, though this follows CFO Joe Price's warning yesterday that the bank could face
$3 billion in fourth-quarter writedowns. The Charlotte, N.C., bank's shares, which nonetheless rose substantially yesterday on the heels of that warning, today were pulling back 0.5%.
MI also lost ground even though the Milwaukee bank said it will repurchase $114 million of its shares from
on an accelerated basis under prior authorizations. Shares recently gave up 1% to $32.25.
was off 1.2% after saying that a pretax litigation expense of $50 million will slice 15 cents a share off its fourth-quarter bottom line. The Chicago-based firm said in a regulatory filing that, as a member bank of Visa U.S.A., it must share in the credit-card issuer's recent antitrust settlement with
. Northern Trust stock shed 97 cents to $79.24. AmEx was recently up 1.2%.