Updated from 4:08 p.m. EDTA rally effort in the final hour of trading on Wall Street pulled stocks higher to end a chaotic Friday with mixed results. At the center of the whipsaw session was the fate of the financial system, which has been buckling as credit markets remained frozen and financial firms got pummeled. The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung violently throughout the session. The Dow suffered a sharp selloff of nearly 700 points early in the session to fall briefly below 8000 for the first time in more than five years. It heaved briefly into positive territory two times, before ending the day down 128 points, or 1.5%, at 8451.19. The S&P 500 lost 10.7 points, or 1.2%, at 899.22. The Nasdaq gained 4.39 points, or 0.3%, at 1649.51. For the week, sellers dominated the charts as the Dow dropped 18%, the S&P lost 18% and the Nasdaq dropped 15%. Amid the increasing concern about banks, the U.S. government was considering guaranteeing bank debt and insuring all domestic bank deposits, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Friday afternoon, the finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations held a meeting in Washington. The economic powers plan to discuss a coordinated response to the global credit crisis. Japan's finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, said that his country would propose an international fund to secure emergency loans for nations suffering under the credit squeeze.
He said the U.S. Treasury should begin guaranteeing money market funds and is right to take equity positions in financial firms as opposed to buying bad debt. Mendelsohn said the situation isn't hopeless, and the G7 meeting is an opportunity to fix the system. "They've got to come up with a plan on Monday," he said. "Everybody's got to know what the rules are, how the system's going to work moving forward. You have to throw as much money as it takes." Traders were closely eying an auction of credit default swaps related to bankrupt brokerage Lehman Brothers. The auction is expected to bring heavy losses to sellers of the swaps, which function as insurance against a default on company debts. The market for these derivatives has been tied up as credit markets showed at best a mixed reaction to internationally coordinated rate cuts initiated earlier in the week. The final settlement price for the Lehman credit default swaps came in at 8.625 cents, meaning that sellers of Lehman CDS will have to pay buyers 91.375 cents on the dollar, a higher payment than expected. "The Lehman auction could turn things around," said Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates. "What has to enter the market, I think, is some level of trust. And right now, there isn't." He said that seeing the Lehman credit-default swaps clear will help get the financial system moving again.
Lehman's bankruptcy triggered the crisis, said Mendelsohn. "When the Lehman commercial paper failed, that's what caused the run on money markets," he said.
Three-month dollar Libor, a measure of the rates banks charge one another for large loans, climbed to a new high of 4.82%, although rates on the nine- and 12-month maturities were declining. The cost of overnight borrowing, which has been highly volatile in recent weeks, declined by more than half, to 2.47% from 5.09%. Speaking in Washington, President Bush said the administration has taken significant steps to provide liquidity to the markets and that Americans should be confident about the U.S. economy's future. Bush also said that over time, steps already taken by the government would gain traction. Financial stocks were at the forefront of investor skepticism thanks to nearly dry credit markets. Battered firms Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Goldman Sachs ( GS) were again in focus. Ratings agency Moody's said it may cut Morgan Stanley's credit rating, and lowered its credit outlook for Goldman to negative. Morgan Stanley dropped 22% to $9.68. Goldman finished the day down 12% to $88.80. Following a heated battle with Citigroup ( C), Wells Fargo ( WFC) appeared set to buy Wachovia ( WB) unencumbered.
Citigroup said it will continue to pursue $60 billion in damages for breach of contract but would not try to overturn a merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia. Citi had announced a Wachovia acquisition on Sept. 29, only to trumped days later by a new bid from Wells. Moody's and S&P announced that Citi was on review for a credit-rating downgrade. Wachovia caught a credit upgrade from S&P after Wells announced it would go ahead with the deal.
Citi shares climbed 9.1% to $14.35. Wells added 3.9% to $28.31, and Wachovia rocketed 43% to $5.15. The Journal also reported that insurance firm AIG ( AIG) took out an additional $9 billion in government loans, bringing its total borrowing from the U.S. in the past three weeks to $70.3 billion. The company continues to attempt to sell its assets in a struggle to stay afloat. Shares dropped 2.5% to $2.33. The paper also said the U.S. exchanges are considering a temporary plan that would halt short-selling in any stock that had a drop of 20% in a single session. If that occurs, in many cases shorting would be banned in the stock for three days, the paper reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Bank of America ( BAC) shares were edging higher following reports that it may sell a portion of its 11% stake in China Construction Bank. The banking titan also appeared set to carry out its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, despite declines in both firms' stock prices, according to a report in the Financial Times. Bank of America stock jumped 6.3% to $20.87. Earnings season continued amid the financial turmoil, as industrial bellwether General Electric ( GE) reported third-quarter earnings that declined 12% year over year but were in line with revised estimates. GE shares tacked on 13% to $21.50. As for analyst actions, Wells Fargo, along with insurance and credit services firms such as State Auto ( STFC), Erie Indemnity ( ERIE), Donegal Group ( DGICA) and Advanta ( ADVNB) all caught upgrades from Stifel Nicolaus.
Looking at economic data, the Census Bureau's report on the trade balance for August showed a deficit of $59.1 billion, whereas the economy registered a $62.2 billion deficit in July. Economists had anticipated an August deficit of $59 billion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that export prices excluding agricultural goods declined 1% in September. Import prices excluding oil dropped 0.9%. In commodities, crude oil lost $8.89 to settle at $77.70 a barrel. Gold lost $27.50 to close at $859 an ounce. Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling. The 10-year was down 22/32 to yield 3.87%, and the 30-year was declining 20/32, yielding 4.14%. The dollar was climbing vs. the euro and pound, but falling against the yen. Overseas, European markets were taking it on the chin. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were each down more than 7%. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng also closed with broad losses. Nobody ever made a dime by panicking, says Jim Cramer. Moneymaking opportunities exist despite the market turmoil. So where's a market master like Cramer putting his money these days? Check out his personal portfolio at Action Alerts PLUS. Take a free trial now.