Stocks pull off comeback
Wall Street bounces back as investors scoop up shares hit in the recent selloff.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks snapped back Wednesday, erasing earlier losses, as investors set aside worries about the economy to scoop up a variety of issues battered in the recent selloff.
Stocks had flip-flopped on both sides of unchanged throughout the session Wednesday earnings forecast, oil and gold prices near records and Goldman Sachs' forecast that the economy may already be in a recession.
Stocks tumbled again in the afternoon, led by the financial sector. But in the last hour of trade, investors staged a recovery.
"It's the old rubber-band effect, where the market was very compressed and just snapped back from a vastly oversold condition," said Steven Goldman, market analyst at Weeden & Co.
Treasury prices slumped, boosting the corresponding yields. The dollar bounced back versus other major currencies.
After the close, Dow component Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly earnings that topped estimates, starting off the fourth-quarter reporting period on a plus note. Shares of Alcoa gained around 4 percent in after-hours trade. (Full story).
Also after the close, Target (TGT, Fortune 500) said its CEO will retire in May amid slumping sales. He will be replaced by the retailer's president. Target shares were little changed in after-hours trade. (Full story).
There are no big market-moving earnings or economic reports scheduled for Thursday, with a speech from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke the biggest event. Bernanke is due to speak Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., on the economic outlook and monetary policy.
In the first five trading days of the year, through Tuesday's close, the S&P 500 lost about 5.3 percent, while the Dow industrials fell 5.1 percent and the Nasdaq composite fell 8 percent.
"It's been a bad start to the year," said Greg Church, president at Church Capital.
Church said a bigger snapback could be in the works in the days ahead, but that it depends a lot on what the financial sector does, since the broad market is taking its cue from the financial sector.
The financial sector led the late-session turnaround Wednesday, with JP Morgan (JPM, Fortune 500), Citigroup (C, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) and Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) all recovering from earlier losses.
In corporate news, MBIA (MBI) said it will cut its dividend and raise $1 billion from the sale of notes, as a means of raising money and avoiding a ratings downgrade. The bond insurer also said that regulators have probed how thoroughly it disclosed risks, and that regulators are now looking at the $1 billion investment it received in December from Warburg Pincus.
MBIA shares fell 4 percent, recovering from bigger losses thanks to the end of the day turnaround.
Countrywide Financial (CFC, Fortune 500) slipped for a second session after the mortgage lender said that the delinquency and foreclosure rate of home loans in its portfolio jumped in December. Shares fell 6 percent and dragged on Washington Mutual (WM, Fortune 500).
On the upside, E*Trade Financial (ETFC) gained almost 7 percent. The company said it sold $3 billion in mortgage-backed securities and municipal bonds and that it is getting out of its institutional trading business as it attempts to accelerate its turnaround effort.
Also on the upside, chemical maker DuPont (DD, Fortune 500) said that it will post stronger-than-expected earnings in the fourth-quarter 2007 and full-year 2007, as well as full-year 2008, despite the slowing economy. That sent shares of the Dow component up around 4.8 percent.
Market breadth was mixed. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners topped losers 3 to 2 on volume of 2.06 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners narrowly edged advancers on volume of 2.86 billion shares.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs added to the growing talk of a pronounced slowdown, saying that recent data suggest the economy is falling into a recession.
Goldman Sachs said that as a result of this slowdown, the Federal Reserve is likely to cut the fed funds rate, a key short-term lending rate, to 2.5 percent by late 2008. The fed funds rate currently stands at 4.25 percent after the Fed cut it three times in a row.
Some on Wall Street are calling for the Federal Reserve to step in and take action ahead of the next policy meeting at the end of the month. (Full story).
St. Louis Fed President William Poole said that fundamentals remain strong and that it is too early to tell if the problems in the housing market will push the economy into recession, Briefing.com reported. Poole was a voting member of the Fed's policy committee in 2007.
Stocks tumbled Tuesday, extending the abysmal start to the new year, on speculation that Countrywide Financial could file for bankruptcy and a warning from AT&T that it's consumer business is suffering. The corporate news played into growing worries that the economy could be headed for a recession amid the credit and housing market fallout.
Overall, the three major gauges have now fallen at least 10 percent off the recent highs hit in October on a closing level - the technical definition of a market correction. That can spark a big rally, as in November, with people using the selloff as an opportunity to jump back in at lower levels. Or a correction can lead to more selling and eventually a bear market, defined as a drop of 20 percent off the highs.
Treasury prices slumped, raising the corresponding yields on the 10-year note to 3.82 percent from 3.77 percent late Tuesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
In currency trading, the dollar gained versus the yen and euro.
U.S. light crude oil for February delivery fell 66 cents to settle at $95.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday. The price of oil seesawed following the morning release of a mixed oil inventories report.
COMEX gold for February delivery rose $1.40 to settle at $881.70 an ounce, nearing record highs hit on Tuesday.