Updated from 12:06 p.m. EDT
Let's Think About Tomorrow( At 4:56 p.m. EDT) Hard as it might be to believe, the first quarter of 2009 is already over. The first two months of the year were forgettable for most of us who need the market to go up in order to retire one day, while March let us consider the possibility that we might actually have a few dollars left when we decide to call it a career. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded higher Tuesday, adding 86.90 points, or 1.2%, to 7608.92. Good to see us end on a high note, though the downside is the index went out well below its best level of the session. Maybe the mark-up crowd went to work after all.
Mondays Really Are the Worst( At 11:40 a.m. EDT) Two hours into the session, the Dow is moderately higher, up 100 points at 7622. Of the 30 stocks, 27 were stronger. Alcoa ( AA), one of the weakest performers a day ago, is the best percentage gainer so far, adding 9.9% to $7.35, helped by an upgrade from Deutsche Bank. Other winners included Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C), each up more than 8% after Monday's tumble. The worst stock, again, was General Motors ( GM). This time it was losing 10.6% to $2.41. Home Depot ( HD) and Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) were slightly lower. Despite those three laggards, and specifically growing doubts about the future of GM, the final day of the quarter has been on the whole a decent session for the bulls. March has been up and down, but when it wraps up a few hours from now, it will be the first month we've seen in some time that ended higher than where it began. If we're going to recover, it's probably going to be fitful for some time. At least we might finally be seeing the start of something better than the abysmal declines we've come to accept as the norm.
This Wasn't Supposed to Happen( At 8:40 a.m. EDT) Maybe you're the kind of person who likes to think elected officials in Washington are smarter than the rest of us. We do, after all, trust them to make the crucial decisions every day. Or perhaps you believe CEOs of large American companies have some extraordinary ability to succeed in business. They've risen far above your own place in life, and they've achieved great things. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is they're just like you and me. They managed to get elected or promoted through the ranks, but they're ultimately only human, and humans make mistakes. The difference is that when you and I make mistakes, they're generally limited in their effect to us or to a handful of people around us. When Congress or corporate leaders make mistakes, the damage can be so devastating and widespread that it changes the way we look at the world and operate in it. That brings us to the terrible tale of General Motors ( GM). Back in December, the worry was that if GM went bankrupt, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost and the economy, already in a deep recession, would be pushed over the edge. The decision was made to send billions of dollars in taxpayer aid to the carmaker to keep that from happening.
Here we are at the end of March, and what do we have to show for it? Nothing, other than the $13.4 billion that was apparently wasted during that time to delay what could very well be inevitable. We know now that the White House is looking at a plan that would involve bankruptcy for at least parts of GM and another ailing automaker, Chrysler. GM's new CEO, Fritz Henderson, is admitting that might be the way out of this. This is truly a notable day in our history, for this is the type of colossal failure you don't see that often. Monumental missteps by management and by legislators have ensured that everyone loses -- shareholders, auto workers, retirees and taxpayers. Rick Wagoner lost in way, in that he's no longer employed, but he appears to be financially secure at least. Remember this next time you think they're better than you. Think about it before you cast that vote or spend your money buying stock in that company you think has a bright future. Recall that $13.4 billion. I sure hope it was worth it. Better yet, get yourself elected to Congress or come by a nice office in the executive suite. I promise you can't do any worse. Now that that's over, let's take a look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average on what is the final trading day of the first quarter. Futures are acting a little better after the selloff that started the week, recently adding 80 points at 7560. The aforementioned GM, which fell 25% Monday, was steadier, down 3 cents at $2.67. As for other big decliners last time out, Citigroup ( C), a day after dropping 11%, was set to rebound a bit, adding 8.7% to $2.51. Bank of America ( BAC), another double-digit loser in the prior session, was up 5% at $6.33. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) was tacking on 2.3%.