- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street finished a dismal week with a mixed performance yesterday as investors grappled with fears about insurers of distressed mortgage-backed bonds and anxiety about the broader economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose in earlier trading, fell more than 60 points, while the Nasdaq Composite Index managed a gain. Both ended the week down more than 4 percent, however, capping the Dow’s worst week percentage-wise since March 2003.

The market has been shaken in recent weeks by uncertainty surrounding bond insurers and whether they will be able to handle huge losses in the value of mortgage-backed bonds. On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service lowered its rating on the bond insurer Security Capital Assurance Ltd. Then at midday yesterday, Fitch Ratings, another credit rating agency, put a series of mortgage-backed securities insured by MBIA Inc. on negative watch.

Financial stocks fell due to heavy selling in the corporate bond and leveraged loan markets; meanwhile, soaring commodities prices hit retailers, said Miller Tabak equity strategist Peter Boockvar.

Crude oil prices jumped $3.66 to $91.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on expectations of disruptions in Nigerian exports.

Retailers, which posted poor sales figures Thursday, have said consumer spending is not only slowing because of problems in the housing market, but also because of high gasoline and food prices. Other businesses in the nation’s service sector, which earlier this week reported a contraction in January, have struggled, too, with high commodities costs.

The Dow dropped 64.87, or 0.53 percent, to 12,182.13 — above its lows of the day, but well off its highs, too. The biggest losers among the 30 Dow companies were financial companies American Express Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 5.62, or 0.42 percent, to 1,331.29, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 11.82, or 0.52 percent, to 2,304.85.

The Dow ended the week down 561.06, or 4.40 percent, while the S&P; 500 Index lost 64.13, or 4.60 percent, and the Nasdaq fell 108.51, or 4.50 percent.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq fared better than the other indexes yesterday thanks partly to Amazon.com Inc., which authorized a $1 billion share buyback program. The online retailer rose $2.59, or 3.7 percent, to $73.50.

Government bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.65 percent from 3.73 percent late Thursday.

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