- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street fluctuated Friday as investors set aside some inflation concerns and awaited a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Fed gave the market a jolt this week by announcing plans to buy Treasury securities to revive lending and the economy. Wall Street initially jumped on the move but fell Thursday on worries about the dollar and inflation.

In just two days, the dollar fell 5 percent versus the euro and 3 percent versus the yen. Oil prices, meanwhile, soared 7 percent Thursday above $51 a barrel to the highest level this year.

Investors are eager for more insights into the Fed’s plans. Bernanke will be speaking on the financial crisis at the Independent Community Bankers of America convention in Phoenix. The speech is set for noon EDT.

Many analysts believe stocks were due for a pullback after the Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 14 percent over seven trading days. But considering how much the market has rallied, it appears to be holding up well. Since a batch of troubled banks told investors they were profitable in January and February nearly two weeks ago, the stock market bounced off its 12-year lows. Even after Thursday’s retreat, the Dow was still up 13 percent from its lows, and the S&P 500 index was up nearly 16 percent.

The question on Wall Street is whether there will be enough good news in the coming days to keep stocks rising.

In midmorning trading, the Dow industrials rose 8.68, or 0.1 percent, to 7,409.48.

Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.86, or 0.2 percent, to 782.18, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 4.55, or 0.3 percent, to 1,488.03.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.44, or 0.1 percent, to 412.82.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 5 to 4 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 743.7 million shares.

Government bond prices mostly rose after retreating Thursday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.59 percent from 2.60 percent late Thursday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.20 percent from 0.18 percent.

The dollar recovered modestly against other major currencies. Gold prices slipped.

Oil prices rose 19 cents to $51.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In corporate news, printer and copier maker Xerox Corp. slashed its first-quarter profit forecast by nearly 80 percent on restructuring costs and a slowdown in technology spending. Xerox fell 55 cents, or 10.2 percent, to $4.80.

Italian automaker Fiat said it will not assume Chrysler’s current or future debt as it takes a 35 percent stake in the company. Ford rose 20 cents, or 8 percent, to $2.71.

And Citigroup Inc. said it was shifting Edward Kelly, the former head of global banking for Citi Private Bank, to the role of chief financial officer, and naming Gary Crittenden, who has been CFO, as chairman of Citi Holdings. Citi Holdings is the portion of Citigroup that holds the bank’s riskiest assets. Citi rose 13 cents, or 5 percent, to $2.73.

Overseas, Japan’s stock market was closed for a holiday. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.6 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.1 percent.

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