- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NEW YORK | Even the prospect that interest rates will remain low couldn’t bring out buyers in the stock market.

Stocks ended mixed Monday after a brief afternoon gain that came when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said unemployment and other problems would hold the economy to “moderate” improvements and that rates are likely to remain low.

The comments pushed down the dollar because low interest rates make the currency less attractive. That gave a boost to stocks since a lower dollar can add to profits for U.S. companies that do business overseas. The market’s gains evaporated later, however, as the dollar pared its losses.

The back-and-forth trading Monday followed a brief spike in stocks Friday, when an improved jobs report for November provided one of the best indications yet that the economy is strengthening.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.21 to 10,390.11 after being up 54 points and down 29 points. On Friday, the Dow ended with a gain of 23 points after having been up as much as 151 points following the unemployment report.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 2.73, or 0.3 percent, to 1,103.25, while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 4.74, or 0.2 percent, to 2,189.61.

The dollar fell against other major currencies as Mr. Bernanke spoke to the Economic Club of Washington, but those declines moderated in the afternoon, leaving the ICE Futures U.S. dollar index down 0.2 percent.

Gold fell but ended well off its worst level. Oil dropped $1.54 to settle at $73.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bond prices rose, pushing yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.43 percent from 3.48 percent late Friday.

Low interest rates and the resulting slide in the dollar have helped fuel the stock market’s advance since March. The weak dollar has encouraged investors to buy stocks, commodities and other higher-yielding assets.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies rose 0.77, or 0.1 percent, to 603.56.

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