Updated from 2:17 p.m. EDT
U.S. stocks roared higher Friday following reports that the government was creating a sweeping fix for the financial crisis. A moratorium on short-selling by the
Securities and Exchange Commission
lent additional support to the rally.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was jumping 340 points to 11,360, and the
gained 42 points to 1249. The
added 51 points to 2250.
Financial stocks were off to the races. Names including
were all showing sizable double-digit gains.
Early Friday, the Treasury said it would offer $50 billion from its Exchange Stabilization Fund to insure
mutual funds. A number of such funds have lately been under fire thanks to investment in bad debt from bankrupt
and flailing insurer
also said it would build on its liquidity programs to assist money-market funds, by taking steps that include buying short-term debt issued by
Federal Home Loan Banks
Speaking at a press conference Friday morning,
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
said that government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would continue to buy mortgage-backed securities and support the mortgage market. He also said that the Treasury will expand its program to purchase mortgage-backed securities. He said that the cost of government intervention would reach the hundreds of billions of dollars and the administration would work over the weekend to iron out details of the plan.
estimated the government would need to borrow an additional $700 billion to $1 trillion to pay for the recent spate of financial-sector bailouts it has undertaken.
"The Treasury's attempt to take the toxic debt instruments off financials' balance sheets is a pretty big step at correcting some of the problems in the credit market," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer at Oaktree Asset Management. He said that even after government intervention, the crisis will remain until banks resume lending to one another.
The proposed government entity creates a lot of unknowns, including the pricing of the securities the government buys and the extent of resulting writedowns if the government buys bad debt at a discount, said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist Windham Financial.
The SEC, meanwhile,
of 799 financial stocks, effective immediately. The temporary crackdown will remain in place until Oct. 2 but may be extended further. The U.K.'s financial regulator also banned short sales of 29 of its publicly traded companies. Short-selling, or making a bet that a given stock's price will fall, has been a source of heated controversy as some have speculated that short-sellers are responsible for the decline of
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox requested that the agency implement a disclosure rule that would require hedge funds and other investors to disclose their short positions.
According to a
requested that it be added to the SEC's list of financial companies that cannot be sold short.
"I don't necessarily like it," said Pavlik of the short-selling ban, "but I think it could help the market." He said that it's not necessarily right for the government to intervene in the markets, but I can understand why it's for the greater good of the economy and the greater good of the public.
Mendelsohn said that the short-selling ban is causing chaos in options and futures markets and disrupting inverse exchange-traded funds and inverse mutual funds. However, he said some short-term panic has been removed. "You don't have the short-sellers reacting to rumors, news or senses of what's going on out there."
The short-selling ban has also offered a backstop against further failures in the financial sector, said Mendelsohn. "When your stock goes from $30, $40 to zero overnight, you can't survive.
"Although it's hurting certain of my positions, this morning was absolutely the correct thing that had to be done here, because yesterday we were in real danger," he said.
Elsewhere in the financials space, AIG said
will succeed Robert Willumstad as chairman and CEO. Willumstad was ousted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as part of a government bailout package for AIG.
The possibility that other ailing firms would merge persisted. Citing people familiar with the situation,
The Wall Street Journal
reported that Citigroup was considering a buyout offer for Washington Mutual.
may also be in the hunt, according to the report.
As for earnings, after Thursday's session closed,
reported rising fiscal first-quarter profits but offered cautious revenue guidance.
, on the other hand, posted a wider first-quarter loss.
Breadth was bullish. Buyers outpaced sellers by 6-to-1 on the
and by 3-to-1 on the Nasdaq. The NYSE said that in the first hour of trading, 1.2 billion shares changed hands, an-all time opening-hour record.
Looking at commodities, oil settled up $6.67 at $104.55 a barrel. Gold gave back $32.30 to settle at $864.70 an ounce after surging more than $110 in the previous two days.
Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were plummeting in price. The 10-year was down 1-24/32 to yield 3.75%, and the 30-year was off 2-26/32 points, yielding 4.35%. The dollar was making substantial gains on the yen, but falling vs. the euro and pound.
Overseas, the FTSE in London climbed a dizzying 8.8%, and the DAX in Frankfurt was up 5.6%.
went on a tear. The Nikkei in Japan closed with a gain of 3.8%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 9.6%.