Updated from 11:40 a.m. EDT
So Much for Those Gains( At 4:55 p.m. EDT) No follow-through. None. We started this short week in fine shape. Remember that rally? I know. It's true. It was only one day ago. This time around we get the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 173.47 points, or 2.1%, at 8300.02 Wednesday. That means we're basically flat for the first two sessions. Whereas just two stocks declined Tuesday, only two managed to advance this time, and barely at that. Caterpillar ( CAT) was up 5 cents to $35.05, and Merck ( MRK) tacked on 7 cents to $26.63. GM ( GM) was the worst component on a percentage basis, down 20% to $1.15 as reality returned that a bankruptcy filing is likely in a matter of days. We've seen occasional signs of life in the stock when it looked like something might possibly prevent or delay that, but there was none of that today. Shouldn't be surprised. Remember that even the CEO, Fritz Henderson, has been saying for a while that a filing was probable. That doesn't mean it's not a shame. Hard to think of a company that is more of an icon of American business. Now, even after all the cost-cutting, job losses and restructuring, Chapter 11 is probably right around the corner. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) was the next weakest stock, falling 5.2% to $34.66. American Express ( AXP) was down 4.4% at $23.50.
Based in Washington, D.C.( At 11:20 a.m. EDT) Now we hear that the government ultimately might own somewhere around 70% of General Motors ( GM). This tale gets stranger by the day. Or sadder. Or more tiring, at least.
Bankruptcy is almost assured for the Detroit carmaker now that bondholders failed to go along with the company's proposed debt-for-equity exchange. So we'll know for sure in a few days if we're left with what amounts to the Automaker of the United States of America. AMUSA? I don't know about that. If Chapter 11 and that much federal involvement do in fact come, it could very well mean the end of GM's days in the Dow. It's been in the index continuously since 1925, and before that it was in briefly around the time of WWI. The last time a change was made to the industrial average was in September, when AIG ( AIG) was kicked out and replaced with Kraft ( KFT). Back then, John Prestbo, editor of Dow Jones Indexes, noted that the decision followed "the effective nationalization of AIG and its very low stock price." Maybe I'm alone here, but a 70% stake about qualifies as nationalization to me. And GM was recently trading at $1.28, down 11% on the day. Just something to think about. On the whole the Dow was little changed, off 28 points. Among the stocks, 15 were lower, with GM the worst performer on a percentage basis. Most of the other declines were modest. The winners were also seeing minimal moves. Intel ( INTC), up 1.8% at $15.76, was the top stock, followed by Wal-Mart ( WMT), which added 1.3% to $50.66.