Financial markets have closed a tense but mostly quiet session little changed today. Investors are still contending with anxiety about how...
NEW YORK — Financial markets have closed a tense but mostly quiet session little changed today. Investors are still contending with anxiety about how effective the government plan to rescue banks from crippling debt will be.
The credit markets remain strained as investors try to determine what shape the $700 billion plan will take.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell a modest 29.00 to 10,825.17 after moving in and out of positive territory during the session. The Dow is down more than 500 points, or about 4.7 percent, for the week.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, rose 28 cents to close at $25.72 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, added 5 cents to $57.36.
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Among broader stock indicators, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 2.35 to 1,185.87, and the Nasdaq composite index added 2.35 to 2,155.68.
Today’s session was calm with light volume compared with the volatility that has hammered Wall Street in recent weeks.
Stocks lost ground after enthusiasm dissipated over investor Warren Buffett’s decision to invest at least $5 billion in Goldman Sachs. Wall Street took the move as a sign of support for the independent investment bank model. Besides buying $5 billion in preferred stock, Berkshire also got warrants to buy another $5 billion in Goldman common stock.
Goldman Sachs also said it will sell $5 billion worth of common stock to the public. The company and Morgan Stanley earlier this week were granted approval to become bank holding companies, which would help them strengthen their balance sheets.
Though Buffett’s move appeared to soothe some investors, it didn’t alleviate concerns about the effectiveness of any government bailout and about the health of the broader economy. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee that he agreed to limit the pay of Wall Street executives whose companies might benefit from the proposed $700 billion bailout measure for financial services firms.
Paulson appeared with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke before Congress for a second day to brief lawmakers on the plan. Their appearance on Capitol Hill on Tuesday unnerved investors, who questioned whether lawmakers were beginning to doubt the necessity and form of the government bailout.
The waiting was clearly wearing on the credit markets, raising concern again about liquidity.
Demand for short-term government Treasurys increased as investors again sought safe places to keep cash. The yield on the 3-month Treasury bill, considered the safest short-term financial asset, was at 0.50 percent this afternoon, down from 0.79 percent late Tuesday. Last week, demand spiked so high that the yield briefly dipped into negative territory; investors were so focused on putting their money in safe assets that they have been willing to accept very little or even negative returns.
In other Treasury trading, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.78 percent from 3.80 percent late Tuesday.
“I think you’re seeing a lot of tough talk from politicians who don’t want to seem like they’re rolling over for Wall Street and normally, people would see that for what it is. But right now investors are exceptionally nervous,” said Stephen Massocca, co-chief executive of Pacific Growth Equities in San Francisco.
The dollar, whose struggles earlier this week contributed to extreme volatility in other markets, was mixed. Meanwhile, gold prices rose.
Light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 88 cents to settle at $105.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after rising as high as $109.50. On Tuesday, the contract fell $2.76 to settle at $106.61.
Investors appeared unfazed by a larger-than-expected drop in sales of existing homes in August; their focus remained on the bailout. The National Association of Realtors said sales fell by 2.2 percent; sales had been expected to fall by 1.6 percent, according to economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR. The number of unsold homes on the market dropped by 7 percent from a record set in July. It marked the steepest drop in inventory since December 2006.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was lighter than in many recent sessions at 797.9 million shares.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.6 percent.