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Most markets remain up
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street closed mostly higher yesterday as investors appeared relieved that more bad news didn’t emerge about risky mortgages and shrinking credit markets. Investors seeking safety pressed into shorter-term Treasurys.
Stocks endured back-and-forth trading after a rally Friday that came in response to the Federal Reserve’s decision to lower its discount rate. The Fed said Friday it stood ready to make further moves to keep credit and stock market losses from hurting the economy, but because it stopped short of a cut in the more important federal funds rate, uncertainty lingered on Wall Street about policy-makers’ intentions. The Fed is not scheduled to meet formally until Sept. 18, which means investors could remain jittery until then.
“Fed action certainly doesn’t make unsound credit sound. It allows some confidence for the higher quality deals to get done. It’s more psychological. It provides confidence that the Fed will be a stopgap and a lender of last resort.”
Treasury bonds, which have rallied in recent weeks as investors fled to safe-haven securities, continued their move higher yesterday. Because bond prices move opposite their yields, the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yields fell to 4.65 percent from 4.68 late Friday, while the shorter-duration notes such as the three-year T-bill saw yields fall sharply.
The Dow Jones industrials finished up 42.27, or 0.32 percent, at 13,121.35, after seeing 100-point swings higher and lower.
Broader indexes were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.39, or 0.03 percent, to 1,445.55; the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 3.56, or 0.14 percent, to 2,508.59.
Yesterday’s erratic trading wasn’t unexpected; analysts had questioned how much conviction buyers had on Friday, as much of the rally was pinned on big institutional investors like hedge funds buying shares to cover their positions. Some investors had been shorting the market — betting stocks would move lower — and were caught off guard when the central bank cut the discount rate.
“There’s a lot of uncertainties out there,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage house Avalon Partners. “The question is if the Fed did enough to satisfy the markets. Wall Street will be relentless until they cut the Fed funds rate.”
At the market open yesterday, the Fed also announced it injected another $3.5 billion into the banking system. The central bank has infused the market with nearly $120 billion of liquidity in recent weeks.
Light, sweet crude fell 90 cents to $71.08 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Investors have been wary as Hurricane Dean has moved toward Mexico, where major oil companies have already begun battening down oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The dollar was mixed against major currencies, while gold prices rose.
This week will be light on economic reports, which makes it a bit more difficult for investors to assess what the Fed might do at its rate-setting meeting. In one economic reading that arrived yesterday, the Conference Board said its gauge of future economic activity moved slightly higher in July.
The research group’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent in July, as analysts expected. The index fell 0.3 percent in June, after rising 0.2 percent in May. The report is designed for forecasts of economic activity over the next three to six months.
With earnings season mostly wrapped up, there was little in the way of corporate news for investors to go by. August is typically one of the slowest periods for equities markets.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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