Wall Street finished higher in an uneasy session today as retail and homebuilders stocks rose on expectations for more interest rate cuts...
NEW YORK — Wall Street finished higher in an uneasy session today as retail and homebuilders stocks rose on expectations for more interest rate cuts, but banks and insurers fell on worries about further mortgage debt troubles.
The Dow rose 57.88 to 12,240.01.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 35 cents to close at $28.21 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained $1.78 to $81.11.
Broader stock indicators ended higher, too. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.84 to 1,339.13, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.21 to 2,320.06.
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The Federal Reserve has been in rate-cutting mode this year, and it is expected to lower the federal funds rate once more either this month or at its next regularly scheduled meeting March 18. And the cheaper cost of money is beginning to register in the stock market.
“A number of sectors like retail and housing stocks have done better since the Fed acted, and they are leading the market again today,” said Steve Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden. “These stocks are called early bellwethers and they tend to lead a recovery.”
But investors continue to grapple with bad news in the credit markets. The stock market fell in early trading and was volatile even after recovering, with Wall Street clearly concerned by news that American International Group (AIG) might have more mortgage debt to write off.
AIG, one of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones industrial average, said in a regulatory filing it would need to alter the way it values its credit default swaps involving collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Credit default swaps are insurance policies against defaults, and CDOs are funds that contain slices of bonds, some of which are backed by mortgages.
The insurer said auditors found it “had a material weakness in its internal control over financial reporting and oversight” regarding how it valued certain credit default swaps. The filing raised concerns that there will be further losses at AIG, and that other financial companies might reveal similar problems. AIG dropped $5.94, or 11.7 percent, to $44.74.