Updated from 1:50 p.m. EST

I Am Not a Pessimist

(At 5:56 p.m. EST)

A 39% plunge in shares of Citigroup ( C - Get Report), a horrid reading on the nation's GDP and GE ( GE - Get Report) cutting its dividend to one-third of its prior level. This is what the market had to contend with Friday, and all things considered I think it held up fairly well.

Of course, after you read some of what follows I won't hold it against you if you disagree.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average did close with a loss, ending down 119.15 points, or 1.7%, at 7062.93, and even if it could have been uglier, it wouldn't be exactly fair to celebrate, either. That was, after all, the lowest finish since May 1, 1997.

So here are some of the key numbers. The Dow saw 23 stocks fall and seven rise. The best stocks were also the only two to climb for the month -- IBM ( IBM - Get Report), up 3.4% on the day, and Wal-Mart ( WMT - Get Report), better by 2.1%.

On the losing side, the aforementioned Citi had the steepest decline, while Bank of America ( BAC - Get Report) followed with a 25.8% decrease to $3.95. GE, after lowering its dividend, lost 6.5% to $8.51, but plenty of voices out there like the move because it preserves capital and should be a longer-term positive.

For the week, the Dow shed 4.1%, and so far this year, it's down 19.5%. And good riddance, February. The index slid 938 points, or 11.7%, over the past month. The last time February was worse, on a percentage basis, was 1933.

So maybe the news on the Dow isn't so great. But I know this is. It's the weekend.

Sharp Cut in GE's Dividend

(At 1:44 p.m. EST)

General Electric ( GE - Get Report) told shareholders it was committed to keeping its dividend rate, then it appeared to back off that position, and now we have this. Reports Friday say the Fairfield, Conn., industrial and financial giant has decided to cut its quarterly dividend by two-thirds to 10 cents a share from 31 cents.

Questions had been swirling for some time about the safety of the dividend, and now GE has moved to slash the payout in a bid to save $9 billion a year, CNBC reports. Shares were down almost 5% on the news to $8.65.

Few Winners Early

(At 10:05 a.m. EST)

So it's bad, but it could have been worse. That's my take at least in the beginning part of this new trading day. The Dow was down more than 100 points just after the opening of the week's final session, but about half an hour in, the loss had been cut to 79 points, putting the index at 7102.

Earlier, we appeared to be heading swiftly toward the wrong side of 7000. I realize it's just a round number, but from a psychological standpoint you'd rather not see the Dow drop through that mark. Unless you're making money on the short side, in which case you might.

At any rate, as expected the financials were weak. Citigroup ( C - Get Report) was the worst percentage loser on the Dow, falling 27% to $1.80. The upside is that it had been plummeting more than 40% in the premarket.

Bank of America ( BAC - Get Report) was slipping 14% to $4.58, while JPMorgan Chase ( JPM - Get Report) was holding up better, giving back just 1.3%.

The banks weren't alone on the downside, however. Of the 30 Dow stocks, 24 were in the red. Among the few winners, Caterpillar ( CAT - Get Report), Wal-Mart ( WMT - Get Report) and IBM ( IBM - Get Report) were the best performers.

Considering the selloff in the banks and this awful GDP number -- worst reading in 25 years -- this could have been really nasty. Of course, it is still early.

Big Declines for the Big Banks

(At 8:25 a.m. EST)

If the Dow Jones Industrial Average manages to close higher Friday, it doesn't look like it will be because of any help from its financial components.

Futures on the Dow were dropping ahead of the open, and the index's banks were falling hard, particularly Citigroup ( C - Get Report). For several days rumors have circulated that the government might be about to boost its common stock holdings in the New York firm, and now Citigroup has confirmed it.

On top of that, Citi is suspending its dividends on its preferred and common shares, and it told investors it would have to take a roughly $9.6 billion goodwill impairment charge.

The end result? Citi was sinking 42% to $1.43 in the premarket.

As for Citi's fellow Dow banks, Bank of America ( BAC - Get Report) was driven back under $5, tumbling $1.17, or 22%, to $4.15. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM - Get Report) was off 7% at $21.46.


Was the U.S. government right to take a larger common stock stake in Citigroup?

Yes. We've needed this for some time.
Yes. But I didn't want to see the dividends suspended.
No. This is too close to nationalization.
No. The government should have made Citi sort things out or fail.