Updated from 2:59 p.m. EST
Stocks in New York dragged lovelessly into the holiday weekend, as investors assessed the various strategies coming out of Washington to treat the economic crisis -- among them the historic economic stimulus plan, which the House passed in its latest form Friday.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
gave up 86.89 points, or 1.1%, to 7845.87, and the
shed 8.5 points, or 1%, to 826.69. The
flirted with positive territory, but closed the day down 4.87, or 0.3%, at 1536.84.
were the biggest losers among the Dow components,
weighing on the gaining side of the balance.
An active sector again this week, banks were underperforming Friday, with the KBW Bank Index recently down 3.1%.
"By far the focus of the financial universe is on Washington," says Gerard Comizio, senior partner in Paul Hastings' Financial Services Practice Group, specializing in financial service matters, and corporate, transactional, securities and regulatory matters arising under the banking laws.
Earlier in the week, financials took the brunt of cross-sector beating after U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented the framework of the next-step bank cleanup plan, and investors found little relief in the economic stimulus plan that is now awaiting a final vote in the Senate after being validated by House Democrats Friday. The vote was 246-183, with not a single Republican voting in favor of the bill. The bill now awaits Senate approval.
"If the Treasury's plan was a term paper, and I was grading it, I would say 'interesting concepts but not enough detail -- please revise or update'," says Comizio. "The marketplace is really looking for vivid detail on what the Treasury plans to do on buying troubled assets from banks; it gets that there are accounting problems, they already know that and want to know how the administration is going to deal with them."
Just saying that there will be an effort to buy these assets isn't enough, says Comizio, noting that the market already heard that in September 2008.
"The Geithner plan was extremely confusing and didn't have specifics, and the stimulus package didn't have the cuts that Wall Street wanted to see -- and they took out provisions on housing, which confused people on the Street," said Anu Sharma, managing director of the Nasdaq Market Intelligence Desk. "They felt that housing was where it all started and where it should end."
Subsequently, Sharma says, that brought back in some of the short-sellers who'd covered their positions the week prior. "We had fairly light volumes throughout the course of the week because any of the buying activity that could be spurred by a well-received package didn't occur. Big firms weren't buying in based on what they were seeing coming out of Washington."
News late Thursday that the Obama administration is readying efforts to help distressed homeowners breathed a last-hour rally into the market yesterday, but the effect did not carry over.
The mortgage subsidy program was the administration "trying to appease some of the concern for why all of the sudden the homeowners' part of the stimulus bill got taken away," says Sharma. "But it won't help people move into new homes, so while it will mitigate some of the foreclosures we're seeing, it's not going to help boost home buying, which is what the original $15K tax credit in stimulus package was supposed to do." That provision was changed in a revision to the stimulus plan.
"Wall Street wanted to see spending coming out of consumers, and we're not seeing that."
In a bit of good news for struggling homeowners,
announced today that it will join others
in putting temporary moratorium on foreclosures.
With regard to problems on a much larger scale, economic leaders from the United States and other G-7 industrialized nations will meet this weekend to brainstorm strategies to repair the global financial system.
That said, the economic recession isn't keeping companies from trying new things -- even in retail. Dow component
to open an unknown number of Microsoft-branded retail stores. The PC maker said it was employing the talent of former
executive David Porter to oversee the timing, locations and design of said stores.
Technology stocks seem to be outperforming most other sectors right now, says Sharma, noting that they had a 2:1 ratio of positive surprises to negative surprises thus far in the earnings season that's wrapping up.
But while you'd traditionally expect to see money move into sectors or multiple companies at one time -- program trading which buys baskets of stocks in one sector while moving out of those in another -- Sharma says he's seeing a lot of specific company trading, because of the high levels of uncertainty.
Keeping the retail theme going, teen retailer
Abercrombie & Fitch
said this morning that fourth-quarter profit slid 68%, falling victim to asset impairment and tax costs, and that it will cut costs and not provide guidance for the year in light of the difficult environment.
was buzzing after strong overseas sales helped it to beat estimates. Friday its rival, snack and beverage maker
met expectations and its own guidance with its fourth-quarter results.
Struggling automakers continue to make headlines, as
said Friday that it will
further scale back North American production, offer buyouts to 18,000 workers, and cut compensation for executives in the region by 30%.
Another company staying in the news,
is now reportedly in talks with both satellite mogul Charles Ergen -- who controls
-- and rival Liberty Media.
Economic data released on Friday include the University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index for February, which fell to 56.2 from 61.2 a month prior, and by far undershot expectations for 61.5.
Thursday wielded an improvement in both January retail sales and initial jobless claims for the week ended Feb. 7, although the economists had expected a greater improvement in the latter.
The dollar was recently stronger against the yen, and weaker vs. the pound and euro.
In commodities, oil was rising $3.33 to $37.31 a barrel. Gold fell $7 to settle at $942.20 an ounce.
Longer-dated Treasuries were recently mixed; the 10-year note was recently down 29/32 to yield 2.9%, the 30-year was losing 2 31.75/32, yielding 3.7%.
Stocks were overseas were mostly higher. In Europe, the FTSE in London was slightly off but the DAX in Frankfurt was slightly higher, respectively. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended higher as well.