- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trading on Wall Street was mixed Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cut its key lending interest rate half a point in an effort to halt the credit crisis from pushing United States into a sustained recession.

Dow Jones Industrial Average surged following the Fed’s mid-afternoon announcement that it was cutting its lending rate but lost more than 400 points in a sell off in the final half hour.

The Dow fell 74.16 points, 0.82 percent, to 8,990.96 at the market close, while the Nasdaq edged up 7.74 points, 0.47 percent, to 1,657.21. The broad-market Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 10.42 points, 1.11 percent, to 930.09.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,954 stocks advanced and 1,145 declined on a volume of 8.52 billion shares traded.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department says it has made the first payments from the $700 billion rescue fund that Congress approved earlier this month —a total of $125 billion in stock purchases from nine major financial institutions.

The program is designed to pump money into the nation’s banks to loosen the credit crunch and stabilized the faltering economy.

The Fed’s new 1.0 percent rate matched the most recent lows of 2003 and 2004.

Low interest rates were blamed for spurring the housing bust of the past year. But analysts say an interest rate cut is necessary to stem the current financial crisis.

Some analysts speculate the precarious state Wall Street and the economy may lead to further interest rate cuts. But a decision on future cuts likely would be put off until the effects of Wednesday’s cuts are felt.

World stocks jumped Wednesday ahead of the Fed’s announcement to cut the interest rate.

In the Asia and the Pacific rim, Tokyo shares rose 7.74 percent and Hong Kong finished 0.8 percent higher. The Sydney market also rose 1.3 percent, while Mumbai was up 0.4 percent

In Europe markets soared Wednesday, with some exchanges showing gains of more than 9.0 percent. The FTSE 100 index rose 8.05 percent to 4,242.54 points while in Paris the CAC gained 9.23 percent to 3,402.57 points.

New orders for durable goods posted an unexpectedly strong showing in September — the largest gain in three months.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durable goods —products expected to last at least three years — increased to 0.8 percent to $207.8 billion.

The surge was lead by a demand for airplanes and autos, government data showed Wednesday.

The increase surprised many economists who had expected a decline. Orders had fallen by 5.5 percent in August, which was the biggest setback in nearly two years.

The big increase in orders for motor vehicles probably reflected the use of incentive packages by automakers trying to spur lagging demand during a generally dismal sales year. Orders for motor vehicles and parts had fallen by a sharp 8.8 percent in August.

In Detroit, a possible General Motors Corp. takeover of Chrysler LLC would cost 25,000 to 35,000 jobs at the automakers, according to a Michigan consulting firm.

But the Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing said Wednesday the alternative of Chrysler being sold in pieces would result in many more job losses, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

A GM acquisition, with possible help from the federal government, is a likely possibility, Patrick Anderson, the firm’s CEO, said in a conference call with reporters.

“It’s a much bigger job loss and a much bigger taxpayer hit if Chrysler simply goes out of business or is dismantled,” Anderson said.

Chrysler employs about 49,000 people in the U.S. and has about 125,000 retirees and spouses.

In other automotive news, Porsche moved Wednesday to put stem volatility in Volkswagen shares by selling some options and Germany’s financial regulator announced a formal investigation into Volkswagen’s recent stratospheric stock gains, AP reported.

Porsche said it would be selling up to 5 percent of its options for common shares in the automaker causing Volkswagen’s stock to slump drastically Wednesday after several days of eye-popping gains, AP said.

The shares plunged 39.5 percent to 572 euros ($737.88) in late afternoon Frankfurt trading.

The options move comes after a weekend announcement that Porsche had bought options to increase its ownership in Volkswagen to 75 percent, building upon its previous ownership of 42.6 percent in common stock.