Updated from 12:22 p.m. EDT
Stocks in New York shook off early losses and headed higher Thursday afternoon, overcoming another day of weakness in the financial-services sector.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was tacking on 69 points at 11,338, and the
was up 7 points at 1239. The
was gaining 16 points to 2245. The Dow was more than 200 points above its session low.
Wall Street went positive despite weakness in the financials. The Amex Securities Broker/Dealer index was off 0.4%, and the NYSE Financial Sector index was losing 0.5%. The KBW Bank index was slightly higher.
Sellers were having their way with shares of
, both of which continued to suffer on liquidity fears after taking heavy losses during Wednesday's trading.
The Wall Street Journal
reported that Lehman CEO Dick Fuld over the past week has been calling other financial firms to ensure they were still trading with his company. Fuld lately has been fighting rumors that Lehman will follow
as the next victim of the credit crisis, the report said.
Analysts expressed extreme skittishness about the prospects for
. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer all cut their ratings on the brokerage. Merrill Lynch replaced its neutral rating with "no opinion." Ratings agency Moody's said after the close Wednesday that Lehman will face a credit downgrade unless it partners with a stronger company. Lehman credit default swaps also rose sharply Wednesday.
reported Thursday that Lehman CEO Dick Fuld is attempting to sell the entire company in the wake of apparent dissatisfaction with his plan to raise capital levels. Reports Wednesday indicated that a previously rumored buyer, Korea Development Bank, had walked away from negotiations to buy a stake in the struggling brokerage. Lehman shares were recently down 39%.
"There's just too much unknown at Lehman. You have the Korean bank supposedly looking under the hood and then walking away," said Peter Holst, managing director at Delta Global Advisors. He said that Lehman's financial statements on Wednesday could have been more transparent in quantifying the firm's exposure to problematic assets.
Holst also pointed out that the market reacted to a
story with an unnamed source when the Lehman selling began. "People are just pulling the trigger and asking questions later." He said that the market may be due for another "whoosh" to the downside before it begins recovery.
dropped 19% after
reported that action in its credit default swaps reflected increasing fears about its capital levels. A
report also indicated that new accounting rules may hurt the company's chances of finding a buyer. WaMu pared earlier losses and was lately down 4.5%.
shares were slipping 13% in sympathy with Lehman and WaMu. Dow component
, another firm with significant exposure to bad debt, was leading among the index's losers, down 7.8%.
Separately, Fannie Mae, which along with Freddie Mac was nationalized by the government over the weekend, successfully issued $7 billion in two-year bonds as investors regained confidence in the mortgage company's credit.
In the energy space,
said one of its fields contains between 3 billion and 4 billion barrels of oil.
Mining equipment manufacturer
announced a $1 billion share buyback early Thursday.
As for commodities, crude oil was down $1.71 to settle at $100.87 a barrel. Gold lost $17 to $745.50.
Moving on to economic data, unemployment claims for the week ended September 6 fell to 445,000 from 451,000 the week before, according to a report by the Labor Department.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' trade balance reading for July showed an increase in the trade deficit to $62.2 billion from $58.8 billion in June. Economists had expected a $58 billion deficit. A bit later in the day, the Treasury will release its monthly budget information.
Longer-term U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year was gaining 8/32 to yield 3.6%, and the 30-year was up 14/32 to yield 4.2%. The dollar was rising vs. the euro and pound, but falling against the yen.
Foreign exchanges were broadly losing value. The FTSE in London and the Dax in Frankfurt were both trading lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Japan's Nikkei finished their day with losses.