Stocks Mired in Negativity

The major indices drag in the red as investors mull the Treasury's financial-firm bailout and the end of investment banking as Goldman and Morgan reorganize.
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Updated from 11:03 a.m. EDT

Stocks in New York sank to new session lows midday Monday, as traders continued to assess the Treasury Department's massive weekend bailout plan for financial firms.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

shed 195 points to 11,194, and the

S&P 500

slipped 26 points to 1229. The

Nasdaq

gave back 46 points to 2227.

On Friday, the three major indices finished substantially higher. Financials led the rally after the

Securities and Exchange Commission

temporarily banned short-selling of 799 stocks in the sector. The Treasury announced over the weekend that it would iron out a plan to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. banks and brokerages to try to avert further damage from the credit crisis.

The

New York Stock Exchange

on Monday extended the short-selling ban to 30 more companies that have significant financial operations. The list includes

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

.

The short-selling ban helped unwind the buy-commodities, sell-financials trade, Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates, wrote in an email Monday. Friday's rally was largely due to a recovery from very low levels and illustrates recent market volatility. "As a result, it is hard to take the movements ... as much more than a bounce from severely depressed levels," he wrote.

Over the weekend, the

Treasury Department

drafted a plan to lift as much as $700 billion in bad debt from financial-sector balance sheets.

"Some of the tranches of these

securities are radioactive," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. However, some of the less-risky securities do have value, he said. He said that the $30.6 million in mortgage-backed bonds Merrill Lynch sold to Lone Star in July were actually very solid.

"The fact that no one wants to touch this stuff with a 10-foot pole is hurting the market value of stuff that no one wants to really understand," said Ablin. He said that if a bailout institution holds the troubled assets to maturity, there's reason for optimism.

Nevertheless, it's possible that a government bailout institution

would actually overvalue the assets it buys. "There is a potential for conflict of interest there," said Ablin.

"While desperate times require desperate measures, this might be a bit too desperate," wrote Nolte. The government plan raises the limit of the national debt by $1 trillion, he wrote. "While there are few worries if the plan works, the proposal severely hamstrings the government to act on any other issue that may come up," and may increase government borrowing from creditors who already own a great deal of U.S. debt, he wrote.

On Sunday, the

Federal Reserve

said that

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

and

Morgan Sanley

(MS) - Get Report

would become bank holding companies instead of investment banks. The change subjects the pair to increased government oversight and stricter capital requirements.

Goldman and Morgan

had been the final two large, independent brokerages after

Lehman Brothers

went bankrupt and

Bear Stearns

and

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

merged with large banks.

CNBC

subsequently reported that Morgan Stanley would probably not be merging with

Wachovia

(WB) - Get Report

following the

Fed's announcement

.

Separately, Japanese bank

Mitsubishi UFJ

(MTU)

announced early Monday it would buy a 10% to 20% stake in Morgan Stanley. Such an investment could be worth as much as $8.4 billion.

"It was a surprise to me," said Ablin of the end of the investment-banking business model. He said that Goldman Sachs is now in competition with

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

. Ablin said that as Goldman and Morgan Stanley seek funding from wholesale deposits, their costs are going to be incrementally higher than those at Citigroup and Bank of America, which already have large deposit infrastructure and offset their costs with service charges.

Outside the financial sector, software maker

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

announced a $40 billion

share buyback

program and said it would raise its quarterly dividend to 13 cents from 11 cents.

Similarly, computer maker

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

and athletic apparel developer

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

each announced their own share-buyback programs.

Shifting to commodities, crude oil was gaining $4.58 to $109.13 a barrel. Gold was adding $37.80 to $902.50 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling in price. The 10-year was down 21/32 to yield 3.89%, and the 30-year was down 1-10/32, yielding 4.46%. The dollar was declining vs. its major foreign competitors.

Abroad, European exchanges were ticking downward. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were both falling. The Nikkei in Japan and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong had earlier finished their sessions on the upside.