- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stocks finished another volatile session narrowly mixed Friday, as gains in the energy, utilities and materials sectors tempered Wall Street‘s concern over the fate of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The three major indexes all managed to end the week higher.

The troubles of the financial sector dominated trading as investors tried to get insight into Lehman’s race to sell itself or otherwise regain Wall Street’s confidence. The company’s shares have spiraled lower this week, heaping pressure on executives at the No. 4 U.S. investment bank to line up a buyer or source of fresh cash.

Lehman shares — which tumbled 42 percent Thursday and are down more than 94 percent for the year — fell another 57 cents, or 13.5 percent, to $3.65 on Friday.

The market is anticipating that Lehman will arrive at a deal over the weekend, said Ryan Larson, senior equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. Lehman, the government and other banks have been declining to comment officially on the issue, but bankers and industry executives have said Lehman is working feverishly to find a buyer.

An unexpected slowdown at cash registers last month also weighed on the stock market Friday, particularly on shares of retailers and other consumer discretionary stocks. The Commerce Department said retail sales fell by 0.3 percent in August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11.72, or 0.10 percent, to 11,421.99, after falling more than 150 points in the early going.

Broader stock indicators also came well off their lows. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 2.65, or 0.21 percent, to 1,251.70, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 3.05, or 0.14 percent, 2,261.27.

The Dow finished the week up 1.79 percent; the S&P finished up 0.76 percent; and the Nasdaq ended up 0.24 percent.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.73 percent from 3.64 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose 31 cents to settle at $101.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after briefly dropping below the $100 mark for the first time in five months. Investors tracked Hurricane Ike, which churned toward the refining and drilling operations in the Gulf.

Worries about risky debt have been hitting other financial stocks this week. American International Group Inc. fell $5.41 on Friday, or more than 30 percent, to $12.14, making it by far the biggest decliner among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Merrill Lynch & Co. fell $2.38, or 12.3 percent, to $17.05, while Washington Mutual Inc. slipped 10 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $2.73.

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