Stocks end at 12-year lows Dow and S&P 500 continue their descent after Citigroup-U.S. deal and GDP plunge. By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer Last Updated: February 27, 2009: 5:58 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks tumbled Friday on worries about the government taking a bigger chunk of Citigroup and a bleak reading on the economy, again touching 12-year lows.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 119 points, or 1.7%. It was the lowest close since May 1, 1997.
The S&P 500 (SPX) index lost 18 points, or 2.4%, closing at its lowest point since Dec. 18, 1996.
The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 13.5 points, or 1%. The tech-fueled Nasdaq has held up better than the other major averages this year and remains above its lows from Nov. 21, 2008.
The economy shrank at the sharpest pace in 26 years in the fourth quarter of last year, confirming other earlier reports that suggested the economy took a hit in the last three months of last year.
While the report was worse than expected, it also wasn't surprising to investors, following weak readings on manufacturing, employment and consumer spending.
"The report is basically confirming what we already know, based on every indicator we've seen so far," said Matt King, chief investment officer at Bell Investment Advisors. "We know this is the worst recession since at least the early '80s."
As a result, the stock market reaction Friday was negative, but not overwhelmingly so. King said the market is getting closer to the point where it has fully priced in a very dire scenario.
Stocks tumbled Thursday as investors sorted through President Obama's ambitious federal budget for the next 10 years. The plan includes more funds for stabilizing the banking system and a move toward universal health care. The selloff continued Friday, with banking shares leading the way.
In other news, the New York Stock Exchange said it is temporarily waving its minimum price for listed stocks, due to the unprecedented stock market environment. There are 50 stocks that have traded for less than a $100 for at least 30 days, the NYSE said. Typically, those stocks would be put under review, which could eventually lead to a delisting.
Last month, the NYSE changed its market capitalization for listed companies to $15 million from $25 million. Both changes are in effect through the end of June.
Citigroup: The U.S. government has increased its stake in Citigroup, bringing it closer to nationalization. The government will now control as much as 36% of Citigroup's common stock, in a deal that converts preferred shares that Treasury already holds for common shares.
The deal gives the bank more capital, which ideally would lead to more lending. The government already gave Citigroup $45 billion in exchange for preferred shares. Shares of Dow stock Citigroup have plunged around 90% over the last year as the company has struggled to stay solvent amid the housing collapse and the credit market crisis. (Full story)
However, the deal inspired no confidence and Citi (C, Fortune 500) shares slumped 39% with investors worrying that the company will ultimately have to be taken over by the government overall, a move that would completely wipe out shareholders.
Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) lost 26%. Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) lost 16% and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) lost 8.4%. The KBW Bank (BKX) sector index lost 8.7%.
GDP: Fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth (GDP) shrank at the sharpest pace in 26 years, the government said Friday. GDP, which measures the output of goods and services made in the U.S., fell at a 6.2% annual rate, the biggest fall in GDP since the first quarter of 1982.
Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting GDP to fall at a 5.4% annual rate, versus the initially reported decline of 3.8%. Falling exports and the consumer spending recession were the main causes of the slowdown. (Full story)
In other economic news, the Chicago PMI, a regional reading on manufacturing, rose to 34.2 in February from 33.3 in January. Economists thought the index would drop to 33. Any figure below 50 signals weakness in the sector.
The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index rose to 56.3 in February from an initially reported 56.2. Economists thought it would dip to 56.
Company news: Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) reported weaker quarterly sales and earnings late Thursday that missed analysts' forecasts. The company also said it plans to cut an additional $1 billion a year from its annual expenses within two years, picking up the pace on an existing cost-cutting plan. This seemed to reassure investors and shares rose almost 4% Friday.
General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) said Friday that it will cut its quarterly dividend by 68% to 10 cents per share from 31 cents per share, a move the company says will save it about $9 billion a year. GE shares lost 6.5%.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners two to one on volume of 1.43 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers five to four on volume of 1.8 billion shares.
Bonds: Treasury prices slipped, raising the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 3.01% from 2.99% Thursday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Other markets: In global trading, most Asian markets slumped with the exception of the Japanese Nikkei. European markets ended lower.
In currency trading, the dollar gained versus the euro and fell against the yen.
U.S. light crude oil for April delivery fell 46 cents to settle at $44.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
COMEX gold for April delivery fell 10 cents to $942.50 an ounce.
4:35 pm : The government is taking a major stake in Citigroup, GE is slashing its dividend, and fourth quarter GDP readings show the economy contracted at its sharpest rate since 1982. Those headlines led to some very choppy trading and pushed the S&P 500 and the Dow to their lowest intraday and closing levels since 1997.
A rather bearish close to the prior session, in which the stock market declined roughly 1.6%, left market participants in a dour mood. The pessimistic tone was exacerbated when Citigroup (C 1.50, -0.96) announced it is offering common shares for up to $27.5 billion in existing preferred equity. The government will exchange a maximum of $25 billion face value of its preferred stock, which gives the government a 36% stake in the company.
Reports earlier in the week indicated the government was in talks with Citigroup, so the announcement wasn't a total surprise. However, news that Citi is suspending dividends on common shares and its preferred shares came as a real disappointment.
Though transaction is expected to increase Citigroup's tangible common equity, which will help it absorb future losses, Standard & Poor revised its outlook for Citi to Negative. Moody's lowered Citi's long-term ratings.
Economic bellwether General Electric (GE 8.51, -0.59) slashed its quarterly dividend to $0.10 per share from $0.31 per share. The dividend cut is expected to save the company some $9 billion annually, according to reports. The cut will also help protect GE's AAA credit rating.
Analysts were anticipating the dividend cut, given the troubles and challenges facing GE's capital unit. Because of the unit's exposure to capital markets the stock has traded similar to financial stocks even though the company is an industrial stock.
In turn, GE's weakness caused the industrial sector to fall 2.7% this session, but 18.0% this month. Financial stocks dropped 7.4% this session, and 18.4% in February. They weren't alone; all 10 sectors in the S&P 500 finished lower for the session and for the month.
Broad-based selling pushed all three major indices lower for the session. The S&P 500 closed near its worst levels of the session.
Earnings reports did little to bolster investor sentiment during the session. Gap (GPS 10.79, -0.56) and Kohl's (KSS 35.14, +0.44) both posted relatively disappointing quarterly results, and Dell (DELL 8.53, +0.32) reported lower diluted earnings per share.
Economic data remains gloomy. Fourth quarter GDP was revised lower to reflect an annual rate of -6.2% versus a previously estimated -3.8%. The decrease in fourth quarter activity primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, personal consumption expenditures, equipment and software, and residential fixed investment. To little surprise, government spending provided a positive contribution.
A consistent flow of negative headlines has left pessimism largely unchecked as traders continue to bet against stocks. The bet seems to have paid off for bearish bets since February marked the worst monthly performance for each of the major indices since October.
More than 2 billion shares traded hands on the NYSE this session. That's the most since December.DJ30 -119.15 NASDAQ -13.63 SP500 -17.74 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1082/2.15 bln/1593 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1010/2.15 bln/2057
3:35 pm : April crude oil futures traded lower in the morning amid broad market weakness. The April contracts managed to fight back throughout the session, but still closed at $44.80 per barrel, down 1%.
April natural gas contracts hit session lows of $3.92 per contract in the morning trade. The contracts saw a significant spike halfway though the session, and managed to hold most of the gains to close pit trade at $4.21 per contract, up 2.9% on the session.
April gold futures contracts managed to close lower for the fifth straight session. April gold contracts were quoted above $999 per ounce on Monday afternoon. The futures hit session highs in the morning at $964.00 per ounce, but traded lower to finish the session at $942.50 per ounce.
March silver contracts traded in positive territory for the majority of the session. March silver contracts hit session highs of $13.34 per ounce and closed at $13.09, up 1.1%.DJ30 -78.61 NASDAQ -7.26 SP500 -13.80 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1110/1.9 bln/1530 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1005/1.5 bln/2048
2:55 pm : The major indices continue to trade within this session's range. Financials are weak with a loss of 6.1%.
Within the sector, 63 of the 81 components are posting a loss. Life and health insurance companies (-16.4%) and diversified banks (-11.1%) are notable laggards.DJ30 -22.54 NASDAQ +3.50 SP500 -6.51 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1317/1.62 bln/1287 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1342/1.31 bln/1705
2:30 pm : The stock market continues to trade in choppy fashion. Since pulling off its early lows, the market has been moving sideways.
At its current level, the S&P 500 is on track to finish with a monthly loss of almost 10%. Such a loss would mark the stock market's third straight monthly decline and its fifth monthly decline in six months.DJ30 -48.66 NASDAQ -0.79 SP500 -9.35 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1260/1.52 bln/1322 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1263/1.22 bln/1766
2:00 pm : Reports indicate General Electric (GE 9.00, -0.10) has slashed its quarterly dividend to $0.10 per share from $0.31 per share. In the past, the company had attempted to reassure investors that the dividend was safe, but then issued statements indicating the company would revisit its dividend as necessary.
In turn, many analysts were anticipating a dividend cut.
It is estimated the dividend cut could save the company some $9 billion annually, which will help protect the company's AAA credit rating.DJ30 -17.44 NASDAQ +4.13 SP500 -5.25 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1349/1.38 bln/1239 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1415/1.11 bln/1630
1:30 pm : Health care stocks are underperforming the stock market for the second straight session.
The prior session's weakness was largely rooted in concern that plans to reform national health care would adversely impact managed care providers. However, the group is getting a boost this session after analysts said there were buying opportunities among the group's beaten down names. An article in The Wall Street Journal stated there is opportunity in shares of Aetna (AET 24.41, +0.38) and UnitedHealth (UNH 20.02, -0.05).
This session's lagging health care players include major pharmaceutical companies Abbott Labs (ABT 47.97, -2.61) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 50.89, -1.55). The health care sector is down 2.8%.DJ30 -37.59 NASDAQ -3.43 SP500 -7.59 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1312/1.24 bln/1235 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1431/986 mln/1582
1:00 pm : Stocks began the session with widespread weakness as sellers pushed the Dow and S&P 500 to their lowest intraday levels since 1997. Both indices already registered multiyear closing lows earlier in the week.
Despite the session's ominous beginning, stocks have pared their losses. Still, the financial sector (-3.8%) continues to trade with marked weakness as investors push bank stocks lower.
The distaste for bank stocks, and many financial stocks in general, stems from Citigroup's (C 1.57, -0.89) decision to offer common shares for up to $27.5 billion in existing preferred equity at a conversion price of $3.25 per share. The government will match this exchange to a maximum of $25 billion face value of its preferred stock. The transaction is expected to increase Citigroup's tangible commn equity, but it also gives the government a 36% stake in the company.
Citigroup is also suspending dividends on its preferred shares and its common shares.
Retailers (+1.1%) are having a strong session, despite relatively disappointing quarterly reports from Gap (GPS 10.83, -0.52) and Kohl's (KSS 35.25, +0.55).
Dell (DELL 8.56, +0.35) also recently reported its latest quarterly results, which included lower diluted earnings per share. Still, many analysts believe the results were on par with lowered expectations and in-line with the results of other tech companies.
The tech sector is currently up 0.6%, while large-cap tech stocks are helping the Nasdaq Composite outperform the other headline indices.
Economic data has done little to lift investors' spirits. Fourth quarter GDP was revised lower to reflect an annual rate of -6.2% versus a previously estimated -3.8%. That marked the steepest drop in GDP since 1982.
The decrease in fourth quarter activity primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, personal consumption expenditures, equipment and software, and residential fixed investment. To little surprise, government spending provided a positive contribution.DJ30 -14.73 NASDAQ +0.95 SP500 -4.77 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1303/1.13 bln/1216 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1442/886 mln/1549
12:30 pm : IBM (IBM 92.02, +3.05), Wal-Mart (WMT 49.63, +1.38), Caterpillar (CAT 24.90, +0.67), and Verizon (VZ 28.83, +0.35) are trading as leaders in the Dow. Their gains, however, are being limited by the fact that declining issues outnumber advancers by 2-to-1 in the Dow.
Exxon Mobil (XOM 69.89, -1.06), Chevron (CVX 62.46, -0.71), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 51.07, -1.37), and Merck (MRK 25.13, -0.91) are trading as laggards in the Dow.
The Dow is currently on track for a monthly loss in excess of 10%.DJ30 -15.77 NASDAQ +3.19 SP500 -4.66 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1301/1.02 bln/1203 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1386/795 mln/1597
12:00 pm : Retailers (+1.7%) are having a strong session, outperforming the broader market by a considerable margin. Lowe's (LOW 16.19, +0.27) is a primary leader in the group, though there aren't any immediate news reports accounting for the home improvement retailer's strength.
Gap (GPS 10.97, -0.38) and Kohl's (KSS 34.91, +0.21) are trading as laggards in their space. Both companies announced rather disappointing quarterly results after the prior session's close.DJ30 -29.39 NASDAQ -1.09 SP500 -7.05 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1224/899 mln/1226 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1240/690 mln/1728
11:30 am : Eight of the 10 major sectors in the S&P 500 are trading lower. Losses remain steepest in the financial sector, which is down 4.9%. Financial stocks had been down more than 7%.
The materials sector is currently up just 0.1%. Newmont Mining (NEM 41.61, +0.93) is providing the materials sector with solid support. Newmont's advance stems largely from a rebound in gold contract prices. Gold was recently quoted 1.0% higher at $951.80 per ounce.
Consumer discretionary stocks are also trading with gains. The sector is up 0.2% with help from Nike (NKE 41.97, +0.94) and Time Warner Inc (TWX 7.66, +0.12). Time Warner announced this morning that it will separate from Time Warner Cable (TWC 18.08, -0.26) through a tax-free spin-off. DJ30 -33.45 NASDAQ -1.60 SP500 -7.05 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1150/820 mln/1273 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1150/630 mln/1780
11:00 am : The Dollar Index is up 0.2%, marking its third straight positive session. That brings the greenback's week-to-date advance to roughly 1.8%.
The U.S. dollar's recent gains come even though President Obama proposed just yesterday a budget that could take the deficit to $1.75 trillion. Still, the relative safety of the U.S. has international investors and currency traders clamoring for the U.S. dollar. That is expected to provide support for the dollar in the short run.
However, the U.S. dollar could encounter pressure in the longer term as inflationary pressures pick up following massive government spending efforts. Should those spending efforts prove effective in stimulating economic conditions, many investors may become less risk averse and more willing to move out of the safety of U.S. dollars. DJ30 -59.41 NASDAQ -3.62 SP500 -9.53 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1177/639 mln/1152 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1050/498 mln/1853
10:30 am : Trading is choppy, but the major indices have managed to climb upward. The Nasdaq recently made its way into the green.
Shares of Google (GOOG 341.87, +4.69), Apple (AAPL 91.00, +1.81), and Dell (DELL 8.63, +0.42) are providing leadership to the Nasdaq.
Dell's advance comes even though the firm reported last evening lower diluted earnings per share results for the fourth quarter. Dell also reported lower revenue. Still, several analysts believe the results were largely on par with reduced expectations and the performance of other tech outfits.DJ30 -51.61 NASDAQ +2.03 SP500 -7.45 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1100/499 mln/1155 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1008/388 mln/1869
10:00 am : Stocks have pared their losses, but losses remain broad-based. The widespread weakness in stocks has induced buying in gold contracts. Gold contracts currently price the metal at $958.30 per ounce, up 1.6%.
Gold contracts declined in each of the past four sessions. The string of weakness came after gold prices climbed above $1,000 per ounce one week ago.
Silver prices are also up this session, overcoming a string of weakness similar to that of gold. Silver contracts are currently priced at $13.15 per ounce, up 1.5% from the prior session's close.
Energy contracts are trading in the opposite direction.
Crude futures contracts were recently quoted at $43.25 per barrel. That translates to a decline of 4.2% from the close of pit trading yesterday.
Natural gas contracts are currenly priced at $3.94 each. Contracts closed the prior trading session at $4.07 each.
09:45 am : Stocks are off to a rather ugly start. Losses are deep and broad-based.
The early selling effort has taken the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to their lowest intraday levels since 1997. The two indices already logged their lowest closing levels in 12 years earlier this week.
Financials are the primary target of this morning's selling effort. The sector is currently down 5.9% as Citigroup (C 1.77, -0.69) plummets to its lowest level in years. The overall financial sector, however, remains above its multiyear lows, which were set last week.
Citi announced this morning plans to increase its tangible common equity by converting existing preferred shares into common shares and suspending dividends on common stock and preferred stock. The announcement has induced weakness in Bank of America (BAC 4.41, -0.91) since investors fear a fate similar to Citi's could befall the company.DJ30 -129.19 NASDAQ -11.24 SP500 -16.00 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 620/160 mln/1394 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 477/150 mln/2197
09:15 am : S&P futures vs fair value: -17.50. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -15.50. Stocks are on track for a downward start as negative headlines continue contributing to a downbeat mood among market participants. Citigoup (C) announced plans to convert existing preferred shares into common shares, which gives the government a massive stake in the company. Citi also indicated it is suspending dividends on preferred shares and common shares. The news has led to weakness in Citi and other major bank stocks ahead of the opening bell. Meanwhile, preliminary fourth quarter GDP results were worse than expected. The annual rate of decline in fourth quarter GDP is the worst since 1982. There hasn't been any overly positive earnings news this morning for investors to rally around.
09:05 am : S&P futures vs fair value: -16.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -14.50. U.S. stocks remain on track for a lower start. European indices extended early losses after word surfaced Citigroup (C) has hatched a plan with the U.S. government to increase Citi's tangible common equity. Germany's DAX is down 3.8%. Deutsche Telekom is trading higher after reporting a loss that was less than that of the prior year. Infineon Technologies is the only other company trading with a gain in the DAX. France's CAC is down 3.2%. France Telecom is trading higher, but its support is limited as declining issues outnumber advancers by 7-to-1. Britain's FTSE has lost 3.0% during the session. HSBC (HSB) is a primary laggard. Lloyd's (LYG) is trading lower after unveiling a steep loss and failing to reveal the amount of assets it would submit to the UK government's asset insurance plan. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index finished the week's final trading session with a 1.3% gain, while Japan's Nikkei closed 1.5% higher. Defensive stocks showed strength. Banking stocks reversed some early losses as traders reacted positively to news of Citigroup's plan increase its tangible common equity. Sony (SNE) gained during the session, but the company announced after the close that its current president will step down, and the company's chief executive will fill the void. Reports indicate Japan's industrial output during January fell 10% from the previous month, marking the biggest drop on record. Still, the drop was in-line with a median forecast. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 0.7% lower, though losses were limited by a late-session rebound in bank shares. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite closed 1.8% lower. Cyclical stocks weak. Shares in metals producers were especially hard hit.
08:35 am : S&P futures vs fair value: -19.60. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -18.80. The mood in premarket trading has further weakened in the wake of a disappointing GDP report. The preliminary fourth quarter GDP reading indicated the economy contracted at an annual rate of 6.2%. That's the deepest drop in GDP since 1982. The consensus forecast for the preliminary fourth quarter GDP report called for a 5.4% annual rate of decline. The advance report in January indicated the economy declined at an annual rate of 3.8%. Personal consumption during the fourth quarter fell 4.3%. It was expected to decline 3.7% after showing a 3.5% decline in the advance report. Fourth quarter core personal consumption expenditures increased 0.8% quarter-over-quarter, exceeding the 0.6% increase that was expected. The GDP Price Index increased 0.5% during the fourth quarter. The consensus estimate called for a 0.1% decline.
08:05 am : S&P futures vs fair value: -8.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -5.50. Stocks are on track for a downward start. Citigroup (C) is trading 50% lower at $1.21 per share in premarket action after the company announced it will exchange common stock for up to $27.5 billion existing preferred equity at a conversion price of $3.25 per share. The government will match this exchange to a maximum of $25 billion face value of its preferred stock. The transaction is expected to increase Citigroup's tangible commn equity. Citigroup is also suspending dividends on its preferred shares and the common stock quarterly dividend of $0.01 per share. Citigroup is also reconstituting its board. Dell (DELL) posted fourth quarter diluted earnings of $0.18 per share, including certain expenses related to organizational effectiveness and stock-based compensation. The company had earned a diluted $0.31 per share during the same period one year ago. Analysts, on average, expected the company to earn $0.26 per share. Retailers Gap (GPS) and Kohl's (KSS) both topped analysts' earnings estimates for the latest quarter. Gap brought in $0.34 per share, while the consensus estimate was pegged at $0.32 per share. Kohl's brought in $1.10 per share, while the consensus estimate stood at $1.03 per share. However, Kohl's expects first quarter earnings to range from $0.27 to $0.34 per share, which is shy of the $0.35 per share that Wall Street forecast. Kohl's expects full-year earnings to range from $2.00 to $2.30 per share, which fails to meet the $2.40 per share that analysts have projected.
06:16 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +1.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +4.00.
06:16 am : Nikkei...7568.42...+110.50...+1.50%. Hang Seng...12811.57...-83.40...-0.70%.
06:16 am : FTSE...3854.42...-61.20...-1.60%. DAX...3878.06...-64.40...-1.60%.
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