Stocks ended mixed today after seesawing wildly following the Federal Reserve's decision to cut a key interest rate by 0. 5 percentage point point...
NEW YORK — Stocks ended mixed today after seesawing wildly following the Federal Reserve’s decision to cut a key interest rate by 0.5 percentage point.
At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 74.16 at 8,990.96, after swinging back and forth in a 470-point range following the Fed’s announcement. At one point it was up nearly 300 points.
Broader stock indicators ended mixed. The S&P 500 index ended down 10.42 to 930.09, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index added 7.74 to 1,657.21.
The market waffled while it was still digesting the Fed’s economic assessment statement that accompanied the rate cut. It seemed ready to advance in the final hour of trading, but minutes before the close, stocks began to dive.
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The market’s back-and-forth trading, typical in the minutes after a Fed rate move, drew all the more scrutiny a day after an 889-point surge in the Dow on Tuesday, its second-largest daily point gain after the 936-point surge on Oct. 13 that later evaporated as fears about the economy grew.
The stock market has been extremely volatile lately — beyond a simple case of investor indecision, Wall Street’s back-and-forth moves may also be part of its attempt to establish a bottom.
Fed policymakers spelled out a weakening of economic conditions in the U.S. and abroad, citing first a drop in spending by American consumers.
The Fed also reiterated that it expects government steps, including its own efforts to increase liquidity, to improve credit market conditions and the economy over time.
“It seems like they pretty much met expectations,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank in Cleveland. “They more or less indicated elevated concerns about the economy but nothing in it suggests any real panic but that this is just one more step in their program to restore the financial system to complete functioning.”
Not all observers saw the Fed’s action as likely to aid the markets, at least initially.
“I think this 50 basis point (0.5 percentage point) cut was more symbolic than substantive,” said Ed Hyland, managing director and global investment specialist in J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “It makes borrowing more cheap, but it doesn’t necessarily help you find a willing lender. What the economy needs is willing lenders, people comfortable taking risk. It will take time for that to loosen up.”
Some investors are hesitant to re-enter the market after being hit hard. Even with Tuesday’s jump, the three major stock indexes are still down more than 30 percent for the year, battered since last month’s freeze-up of the credit markets. The troubles with the credit markets have made it harder and more expensive for businesses and consumers to get loans.
While signs such as reduced borrowing rates have emerged that the government action to revive credit markets is starting to work, investors remain skittish over the effects of the prolonged credit freeze on the economy, which relies on lending to feed growth.
Investors are hoping the latest rate cut will complement the government’s still-unfolding efforts to aid the commercial paper market, where companies turn for short-term loans, and the banks themselves. The Treasury this week is investing directly in banks, hoping the cash will make them more likely to issue loans.