Investors anxious for clarity on bank plan
NEW YORK – With Wall Street veering close to the November bear market lows, the market is likely to be awash with caution next week as investors look for clarity on how the government plans to shore up banks, housing and the economy.
As a dismal earnings season winds down, analysts will also be taking stock of the damage and reevaluating expectations for the year as companies have cut or withdrawn their outlooks and announced massive layoffs.
While the bulk of the heavy-hitters have already reported their quarterly results, earnings from Wal-Mart (WMT.N), the world’s biggest retailer, are expected next week.
This week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s new bank rescue plan failed to restore confidence in the financial system, rattling investors who had high hopes for a plan that would bolster the sector. The markets remain in the dark about exactly how the plan will relieve banks of money-losing assets.
“I was disappointed with the lack of detail,” said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis.
“Probably the administration’s going to be spending a lot of time over the weekend — they certainly have over the last few days — realizing that the market’s going to need some details.”
The markets will be closed on Monday for the Presidents Day holiday.
The White House said President Barack Obama will outline on Wednesday a plan to stem foreclosures, seen as key to staving off the economic decline that has spread around the world.
Wren said more details could spur a short-term rally in stocks, but until more nuts and bolts are made known the markets will have difficulty sustaining any gains.
On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) ended down 82.35 points, or 1.04 percent, at 7,850.41, its lowest close since the November 20 bear market closing low.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX) fell 8.35 points, or 1.00 percent, to 826.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) was off 7.35 points, or 0.48 percent, to 1,534.36.
The broad S&P 500 is up about 10 percent from the bear market lows hit in late November, which marked the index’s lowest levels in more than 11 years. The S&P had started the year up roughly 20 percent from the lows.
Indexes slumped for the week, with the bank rescue plan and agreement on the economic stimulus package doing little to reassure investors. The S&P 500 tumbled 4.8 percent, its worst weekly fall since late November. The Dow fell 5.2 percent, while the Nasdaq was down 3.6 percent.