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 Post subject: March 31st Tuesday 2009
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:55 pm 
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Today's trades that were posted in real-time in #FuturesTrades chat room via my IRC user name NihabaAshi. You can review each trade from entry to exit along with commentary and an occasional trading tip because its all archived @

My Trading Performance: +20.00 Emini ES points


Dow up in March after 6 Down Months
Stocks rise on the session. Blue-chip indicator posts the first monthly gain since August, but declines for the quarter.
By Alexandra Twin, senior writer
Last Updated: March 31, 2009: 6:16 PM ET

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks surged Tuesday, recharging the rally that gave the Dow Jones industrial average its first month of gains after six straight declines. But all three major gauges declined in the first quarter.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) rose 87 points, or 1.2%. The S&P 500 (SPX) index gained 10 points, or 1.3%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) rose 27 points, or 1.8%.

All three major gauges had posted bigger gains through the late afternoon, but the advance lost some steam near the close.

Stocks fell for the previous two sessions as worries about the auto and bank sectors caused a selloff. Prior to that, stocks had gained more than 20% as the Dow and S&P 500 bounced off 12-year lows. The gains were sparked by optimism that the economy is closer to stabilizing.

Up until the last few minutes of trade, the Dow had been on track to see its best March since 1928. But some late selling left the blue-chip indicator with a monthly gain of just 7.7% - the best since March 2002. The S&P 500 gained 8.5% in March, its best since March 2000.

The Nasdaq gained 10.9%, its best March ever, going back to its inception in 1971.

Year-to-date, the Dow is down 13.3%, making the first quarter its worst since 1939, according to Dow Jones. For the quarter and year-to-date, the S&P 500 is down 11.7% and the Nasdaq is off 3%.

Part of Tuesday's advance was a certain quarter-end dynamic, which tends to bring in portfolio managers who want to put some cash to work at the end of the three-month period.

But the advance through most of March also reflects a shift in sentiment in Washington and beyond, said Larry Glazer, managing director at Mayflower Advisors.

"The government has become more supportive of the stock market," he said. "It's the idea that what's good for Wall Street is good for Main Street."

He said that Treasury's plan to buy up bad bank assets, announced last week, was significant. Also helping was the fact that the government was at least removing some of the uncertainty around the future of GM and Chrysler, even if investors remain wary of a potential bankruptcy.

But most important for investors recently, Glazer said, has been the Fed move to buy up billions in long-term Treasurys, which is lowering interest rates, as well as the still relatively low energy prices.

Both of these developments are giving consumers "a little more breathing room and allowing them to participate in the economy," Glazer said. "It's a positive for stocks that the alternatives for cash are so negative."

Wednesday preview: The morning brings reports on employment, manufacturing, housing, construction spending and oil inventories. March sales from the nation's automakers are due throughout the day.

Standouts include the February pending home sales index, which is expected to show no change after having fallen 7.7% in the previous month.

Private-sector employers are expected to have cut 663,000 from their payrolls in March after cutting 697,000 jobs in February. The report from payroll services firm ADP is closely watched ahead of Friday's monthly employment report from the government.

On the move: Stock gains were broad-based, with 23 of 30 Dow stocks rising.

Dow gainers included IBM (IBM, Fortune 500), Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500), McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500), 3M (MMM, Fortune 500), Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500).

The Dow's financial components spiked too, continuing the recovery off multi-year lows. Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) all gained.

General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) slumped 28%. On Monday, the Obama administration rejected turnaround plans from GM and Chrysler, saying a bigger overhaul is needed if they want more taxpayer money. As part of the revamp, GM CEO Rick Wagoner was asked to step down. Late Monday, Obama appointed an auto czar to focus on the industry's woes.

Market breadth was positive. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners topped losers three to one on volume of 1.65 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners by over two to one on volume of 2.2 billion shares.

Economy: The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index fell a record 19% in January from a year earlier, after falling a record 18.6% in December. The index is a measure of 20 major metropolitan areas.

The March consumer confidence index from the Conference Board rose to 26 from 25.3, missing forecasts for a rise to 28.

The Chicago PMI slipped to 31.4 in March from 34.2 in February, missing forecasts for a slight improvement to 34.3.

President Obama arrived in Europe for Thursday's G-20 meeting of leaders from the world's largest economies. The president is expected to address worries about some of the United States' policies and also push for greater financial regulation.

Bonds: Treasury prices rose, lowering the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 2.68% from 2.71% Monday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Lending rates were mostly higher. The 3-month Libor rate dipped to 1.19% from 1.21% Monday, according to The overnight Libor rate rose to 0.51% from 0.29% Monday. Libor is a bank-to-bank lending rate.

Other markets: In global trading, Asian markets ended higher with the exception of the Nikkei. European markets ended higher.

In currency trading, the dollar fell versus the euro and gained against the yen.

U.S. light crude oil for May delivery settled up $1.25 to $49.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

COMEX gold for June delivery rose $7.30 to settle at $925 an ounce.

Yahoo! Finance

4:25 pm : Despite a lack of positive catalysts, strength in financial stocks led the broader market to a gain Tuesday. The advance, however, was threatened late in the session as a wave of selling pressure slashed gains.

Stocks spent the entire session in positive territory. Early action was a bit mixed and trading was choppy, but financials showed leadership. Strength in financials was put to the test in the final hour of trading, though, as a broad-based selling effort took the major indices markedly off their session highs. The S&P 500 was up as much as 2.9%, but finished with a 1.3% gain. Financials eased back from an 8.1% advance to close with a 6.7% gain.

Financials were able to put together a 17.6% gain for March. That helped the S&P 500 advance 8.5% during the month, which marks the stock market's first monthly gain in eight months. What's more, that's the stock market's best monthly gain since 2002. However, the S&P 500 concluded the first quarter with a 11.7% loss.

Trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange was in-line with the 50-day moving average as roughly 1.6 billion shares traded hands this session.

Overall news flow was dry this session, but there were a couple of economic reports for participants to chew on. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city Composite Home Price Index for January declined 19.0% year-over-year, which was a bit worse than the 18.6% drop that was expected.

Meanwhile, the March Consumer Confidence Index came in at 26.0, which is worse than the expected reading of 28.0. The latest reading marked a moderate increase from February's record low reading of 25.3.

There aren't any market-moving earnings reports due ahead of tomorrow's opening bell. However, the ADP Employment report for March will give participants a glimpse into the government's official jobs report, which is due Friday. The March ISM Manufacturing Index is also due tomorrow morning.DJ30 +86.90 NASDAQ +26.79 NQ100 +1.3% R2K +1.6% SP400 +1.6% SP500 +10.34 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1861/2.15 bln/852 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2306/1.64 bln/742

3:30 pm : May crude oil contracts traded in a roller coaster fashion this session. After being up in the electronic trade before the pit session, the contracts hit session lows in the morning pit trade of $47.77 per barrel. The May contracts traded in the red for most of the session but rallied significantly higher into the close to end up 3.1% at $49.90 per barrel.

May natural gas was trading at its high for the day at $3.83 per contract prior to the pit trade. The May contracts fell at the open of the pit trade and hit session lows of $3.63 in the morning. The contracts, however, rallied into the close and were able to finish marginally higher at $3.74 per contract.

Precious Metals contracts also saw wild swings.

After trading as high as $926.90 in the electronic trade, June gold futures contracts opened sharply lower to hit session lows below $914 per ounce, but quickly recovered to positive territory. The contracts finished 0.8% higher to $925.00.

May silver contracts were trading in positive territory until a sharp sell-off just before 11:00 ET. The May contracts hit session lows at $12.57 per ounce but recovered most of the loss to finish at $12.97, down less than 1%.DJ30 +182.55 NASDAQ +43.32 SP500 +19.65 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 2050/1.6 bln/652 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2547/903 mln/517

3:00 pm : Stocks continue to build on their gains and are now trading at fresh session highs. The move has been broad-based as more than 90% of the stocks listed in the S&P 500 trade with gains.

This session's broad-based ascent comes in stark contrast to the downward move seen in the prior session. More than 90% of the companies in the S&P 500 closed with a loss Monday.DJ30 +172.68 NASDAQ +46.66 SP500 +19.69 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 2079/1.41 bln/629 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2587/795 mln/478

2:30 pm : A dearth of earnings reports are scheduled to be released between this session's close and Wednesday's opening bell. Education provider Apollo Group (APOL 78.34, -0.60) will announce its latest quarterly results after this session concludes; it is the only company with a market cap exceeding $1.0 billion that has confirmed it will report within the next 24 hours.

The current consensus earnings estimate calls for Apollo Group to earn $0.65 per share on $865.5 million in revenue. In addition to earnings and revenue, investors will be paying close attention to the company's student starts and degreed enrollments.

Like the broader market, shares of APOL have been trading in choppy fashion for the entire session. However, while the broader market has climbed to session highs, shares of APOL have surrendered early gains and fallen into the red to trade at fresh session lows.DJ30 +151.89 NASDAQ +42.69 SP500 +17.41 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 2010/1.27 bln/671 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2551/705 mln/483

2:00 pm : This session's advance remains strong as the major indices build on earlier gains. Gains were also had in European trading, where Britain's FTSE closed 4.3% higher, Germany's DAX gained 2.4%, and France's CAC added 3.2%.

Strong advances in the U.S. and Europe have helped give a lift to global indices. The Dow Jones World Index is currently up 1.7%.

Trading in Asian markets was more mixed, however. Japan's Nikkei slid 1.5%, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.9%.DJ30 +155.63 NASDAQ +40.00 SP500 +16.67 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1959/1.15 bln/707 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2516/637 mln/506

1:30 pm : Each of the major indices has managed to make its way to fresh session highs after grappling with a fit of selling pressure. A key question, though, is whether the advance will hold in the face of this session's persistent volatility.

Importantly, financials have successfully held steady gains this session. As has been the case in recent weeks, the financial sector's performance has underpinned that of the broader market. Financials are currently up 5.9%, just off their session high.DJ30 +137.07 NASDAQ +35.28 SP500 +14.53 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1864/1.04 bln/755 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2390/573 mln/598

1:00 pm : Stocks are advancing in an extension of the prior session's late lift, which helped the stock market ease the blow of a two-session sell-off. This session's gains come without any specific catalysts, supporting the notion that short-sellers are covering their positions and investors are revamping their portfolios as the end of the first quarter draws to a close. Those portfolio makeovers are exacerbating the session's choppy trading.

Diversified financial services companies (+7.6%) and diversified banks (+5.0%) are providing the most strength to financials (+4.9%), which make up this session's best performing sector. Financials were the worst performing sector during the prior two sessions by dropping 12.6% during that time.

Overall news flow remains slow, but investors in financial stocks were given an update regarding mark-to-market accounting rules. Though no new specifics have been unveiled, Representative Frank stated in a CNBC interview that there should be some flexibility in mark-to-market accounting as officials talk about adjustments to rules for securities that will be held to maturity.

Economic data remains uninspiring. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city Composite for January showed continued weakness in home prices. The Index showed a 19.0% year-over-year decline, which was a bit worse than the 18.6% drop that was expected.

Meanwhile, the March Consumer Confidence Index came in at 26.0, which is worse than the expected reading of 28.0. The latest reading marked a moderate increase from the record low 25.3 that was posted in the prior reading.

Stocks are currently on track to log their first monthly gain in eight months. The S&P 500 is looking at a 7% advance for March. However, the stock market will most likely be closing the quarter with a loss of more than 11%. DJ30 +121.62 NASDAQ +32.66 SP500 +12.88 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1826/951 mln/779 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2321/532 mln/637

12:30 pm : Trading remains turbulent. However, an upbeat tone persists.

Should the upbeat bias hold through the afternoon, an accompanying gain would snap a two-session selling streak, which came about as participants moved to take profits after watching stocks surge more than 20% from their March lows.

Given the rapid rise from the stock market's monthly low, many participants continue to question whether the upward move was merely a head fake with more losses to follow, or whether a stronger long-term bias has emerged.DJ30 +76.86 NASDAQ +23.38 SP500 +8.98 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1695/858/880 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2177/493 mln/784

12:00 pm : Stocks continue to trade with broad-based gains. Shares of Autodesk (ADSK 16.96, +1.73) and Alcoa (AA 7.28, +0.59) are putting together some of the most impressive advances this session.

Shares of ADSK are registering their largest single-session advance by percent in more than three months after being upgraded by analysts at UBS. Alcoa is also registering a solid gain after being upgraded by analysts at Deutsche Bank.DJ30 +88.09 NASDAQ +23.19 SP500 +9.49 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1677/762 mln/841 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2217/460 mln/743

11:30 am : Stocks have worked their way back near earlier session highs. The move has been broad-based as every major sector in the S&P 500 is now sporting a gain.

Consumer staples stocks are showing the least amount of strength, though. The sector is up just 0.1% amid strength in Procter & Gamble (PG 47.51, +0.23). However, weakness in tobacco companies Philip Morris International (PM 35.85, -0.88) and Altria Group (MO 16.03, -0.35) are undercutting the sector. According to Dow Jones, a recent court appeal from Altria Group has been dismissed.DJ30 +105.85 NASDAQ +24.61 SP500 +10.75 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1649/664 mln/825 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2213/405 mln/689

11:00 am : The financial sector has ascended to a 4.6% gain, which recently helped lift the broader market to its best level of the session. However, the broader market has since reversed course as mixed trading among the other major sectors undermines the market's move.

Despite mixed and choppy trading this session, several key indices are making solid gains.

All three of the major headline indices are up by 1% or more, the S&P 400 Mid-Cap Index is up 0.6%, and the Russell 2000 Small-Cap Index is up 0.5%. Meahwhile, the Dow Jones Utility Index is up 1.3%, undeterred by a lowered profit outlook from American Electric (AEP 25.48, +0.40). DJ30 +89.68 NASDAQ +19.02 SP500 +7.94 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1532/553 mln/874 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2056/336 mln/801

10:30 am : Though the major equity averages are showing solid gains, trading has been choppy thus far, giving way to some mixed results among the major economic sectors. Commodities are also showing mixed results.

Crude oil prices are currently down 1.3% to $47.80 per barrel in pit trading. Prior to the opening of pit trading, crude prices were actually up in electronic trading. An article in The Wall Street Journal indicated that Russian oil companies will cut output this year as falling prices cut into their ability to produce.

Meanwhile, natural gas contracts are also trading lower. Natural gas was recently priced down 1.7% to $3.68 per contract.

Precious metals prices are mixed. Gold was recently quoted at $916.70 per ounce, up 0.1%, but silver is trading just below the unchanged mark at $13.02 per ounce.

The CRB Commodity Index is currently up 0.4%.

The Baltic Dry Index extended its recent sell off by dropping another 1.9%. All of its subindices declined, but for the second straight session the Panamax Index led the retreat. In the latest session the Panamax dropped 4.2%.DJ30 +96.21 NASDAQ +24.02 SP500 +9.07 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1567/397 mln/768 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 2071/254 mln/722

10:00 am : Stocks have pulled back from earlier levels, but continue to trade with solid gains. Financials remain the primary driver behind the move as they advance 3.0%.

There are a few pockets of weakness this morning, though. Consumer discretionary stocks (-0.6%), materials stocks (-0.5%), energy stocks (-0.5%), and consumer staples stocks (-0.2%) have all fallen into the red.

Just hitting the wires, the March Consumer Confidence Index came in at 26.0, which is worse than the expected reading of 28.0. Meanwhile, the prior reading was revised fractionally higher to 25.3, which still represents a record low for the reading.

Early movers: Trading up: CSB +27.1%, TBSI +19.3%, LNC +16.4%, AMLN +14.5%, FUQI +14.2%, JTX +12.4%, HTZ +10.1%, AINV +8.7%. Trading down: ACOR -20.7%, LEN -13.1%, HIG -12.5%, GM -10.3%, ALTH -9.7%.DJ30 +55.36 NASDAQ +18.52 SP500 +4.24 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1519/223 mln/699 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1863/162 mln/879

09:45 am : Following their steep dive in the prior session, financials are rebounding to lead an early advance in the broader market. Financial stocks are currently up 2.6%, more than any other major sector in the S&P 500.

Blue chip financial names are bolstering gains for the Dow as Citigroup (C 2.50, +0.19), JPMorgan Chase (JPM 25.70, +0.85), Bank of America (BAC 6.36, +0.33), and American Express (AXP 13.09, +0.28) all trade higher.

Despite the gains by financials, large-cap tech stocks are helping the Nasdaq outperform the other headline indices in the early going. Microsoft (MSFT 18.15, +0.67) and Google (GOOG 350.29, +7.60) are primary leaders in their space.DJ30 +51.16 NASDAQ +18.31 SP500 +5.27 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 1575/130 mln/547 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 1929/105 mln/711

09:15 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +7.30. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +13.00. Premarket bias remains positive, in an extension of the moderate last-hour bounce that took place yesterday, which followed two straight sessions of sizable losses. Heading into those losses, stocks had climbed more than 20% from their March lows, so the 5% pullback has been viewed as unsurprising by some. Added volatility could come as a result of portfolio makeovers, since this will be the final trading session of the first quarter; stocks are currently on track to log a monthly advance of more than 7%, but a quarterly loss of more than 11% appears to be in the making. There isn't a lot of news for participants to focus on this morning, but the March Consumer Confidence Index will garner some attention when it is released at 10:00 AM ET.

09:00 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +6.80. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +13.30. Stock futures continue pointing toward a higher start for the major indices. Heading into the final trading session of March, the S&P 500 is showing an 11.6% decline for the first quarter. Though certainly not encouraging, the downturn isn't as severe as the 23.6% that was lost in the fourth quarter of 2008. The latest quarterly drop has been softened by the 7.1% advance stocks have made in March. That is actually the S&P 500's first monthly gain in eight months. Just hitting the news wires, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for January came in at 146.4, which is slightly below the expected reading of 147.2. The prior reading was incrementally revised downward to 150.6. The 20-city composite for January showed a 19.0% year-over-year decline, which was a bit worse than the 18.6% drop that was expected, and down from the 18.6% year-over-year decline registered the month before.

08:35 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +7.50. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +12.30. European stocks are bouncing back from the prior session's drop. Britain's FTSE is leading the effort as it advances 3.3% with broad-based gains; of the 102 components listed in the FTSE, 98 are currently trading with a gain. The most leadership is coming from global financial giant HSBC (HBC), which was actually a laggard in the prior session. Broad strength is also helping boost Germany's DAX, which is currently up 1.9%. Engineering giant Siemens (SI) is a primary leader in the DAX. Volkswagen is a laggard for the second straight session. France's CAC is trading 2.1% higher in a broad-based move. The advance comes amid strength in Total (TOT) and BNP Paribas. Societe Generale and Suez Enviornnement are the only to stocks in the CAC to trade with a loss. Action was more mixed in Asia, where the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index closed 1.3% lower as the Asian Development Bank said that excluding Japan Asia's economy will grow 3.4% this year, less than a 5.8% previously estimated. Japan's Nikkei closed 1.5% lower as banks and insurers fell amid renewed worry about the health of the global financial system in the wake of recent European bank rescues. After the close, Prime Minister Aso unveiled an outline for a new stimulus package, instructing government officials to draft the package by mid-April and prepare a supplementary budget to fund it. The prime minister said the size of the package has yet to be determined. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed 0.9% higher after trimming early gains. HSBC (HBC) fell a modest 0.1%. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite closed 0.6% higher.

08:00 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +7.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +12.80. News flow has been slow this morning, but Representative Frank stated in a CNBC morning interview that there should be some flexibility in mark-to-market accounting. Rep. Frank indicated that congressional officials aren't talking about abandoning the accounting rules, but are talking about adjustments to rules for securities that will be held to maturity. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported Japan's Prime Minister has outlined a new stimulus plan. Despite the announcement, Japan's Nikkei shed 1.5%. Action is stronger in Europe, where stocks are rebounding from the prior session's drop. U.S. stock futures also indicate a rebound in what looks like some short-covering after stocks fell more than 5% during the course of the past two sessions.

06:39 am : S&P futures vs fair value: +6.90. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +13.30.

06:39 am : Nikkei...8109.53...-126.60...-1.50%. Hang Seng...13576.02...+119.70...+0.90%.

06:39 am : FTSE...3863.12...+100.20...+2.60%. DAX...4027.18...+38.00...+1.00%.

 Post subject: Re: March 31st Tuesday 2009
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:32 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:06 pm
Posts: 3158
Location: Canada
A quarter defined by historic whiplash on Wall St.
Wall Street's extraordinary opening act: A bear market, then a bull market -- now what?

* Tim Paradis, AP Business Writer
* Tuesday March 31, 2009, 6:32 pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- The first quarter on Wall Street was so extreme it included a bear market and a bull market all its own -- moves that sometimes take years or more. Now investors head for spring still unsure which side is in control.

From the second week of the year to early March, the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than a quarter of its value, plunging from just above 9,000 to below 6,550. Retirement accounts were suddenly worth half what they were in 2007.

Then came a rally that left investors' heads spinning. Over just 13 trading days, the Dow soared 21 percent, bouncing back almost to 8,000.

When the dust settled, the stock market was left with its sixth straight quarter of declines, the first time that's happened since 1969 and 1970. For the Dow, it was the worst start to the year since 1939.

So what now? The answer could be found in a mixture of economic reports that will help Wall Street determine whether there really is hope that the recession, among the longest since the Great Depression, is turning around -- or at least stabilizing.

Manufacturing reports coming this week will give investors clues about whether business is picking up, and the March employment report will shed light on whether the job market pain is still getting worse.

"There was no light at the end of the tunnel in January and February. Now there's some," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors in Albany, N.Y. "It's very, very faint."

On Tuesday, the Dow finished at 7,608.92, a gain of more than 1 percent for the day, still looking a lot better than the lows of early March. Just a day earlier, the market showed its fragility: The Dow plunged 254 points after President Barack Obama rejected the restructuring plans of General Motors and Chrysler.

The companies that did best in the March rally showed traders were betting that a stabilizing economy would mean higher demand for natural resources and electronics. Stock in Alcoa, which makes aluminum, rallied 40.6 percent off its lows.

Cisco Systems, which makes computer networking gear, had a 23 percent bounce. And demand for technology stocks made the Nasdaq index the standout among major market averages. It fell only 3 percent for the quarter.

Bank and automotive stocks were among the hardest hit during the quarter. Citigroup actually fell below $1 a share and finished Tuesday at a still paltry $2.53. GM, once a titan of American industry, now trades below $2.

In a fractious quarter for the stock market, each month was remarkable. The Dow had its worst January ever and worst February since the Depression, then, in March, turned in its best month in six years.

At the end of last year, some were wondering if the worst of the plunge might be over. The Dow had staged a 16 percent rally in November and December. But it turned out investors still had a list of worries longer than a roll of ticker tape.

Banks were still struggling with bad debt, people were losing their jobs by the hundreds of thousands and whole neighborhoods were succumbing to home foreclosures. Wall Street had few details on how the government planned to rescue the banks.

The slide was so relentless that if your 401(k) account was worth $100,000 at the peak of the market in 2007, you would have had about $43,000 in early March, not counting dividends and additional contributions.

Then, on March 10, came a turnaround. The chief of Citigroup said the bank was profitable in January and February. Other banks followed. Home sales and other economic reports came in surprisingly upbeat.

"It's very possible that the lows we put in in March were the lows that hold for the rest of our lives," said Jerry Jordan, portfolio manager at the Jordan Opportunity Fund in Boston.

Of course, the day-to-day swings on Wall Street can still be wrenching, as they have been since the financial meltdown of last September. Just last week the Dow soared almost 500 points in a day. And it fell more than 400 over Friday and Monday.

"I'm kind of skeptical about market fluctuations. I'm not making any new investments for a while," said Howard Green, a retiree in New York.

The market is still being driven by institutional investors such as mutual funds and hedge funds. Small investors are more wary. Even with the gains in March, investors have pulled more than $30 billion out of U.S. stock funds this year, according to TrimTabs Investment Research.

Analysts do see signs the market is in a healthier frame of mind. What's known as Wall Street's fear gauge, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, stands at 44. It trades around 30 in less turbulent times but was above 80 in November.

The stock market tends to trade on investors' expectations for how business will look six months to a year down the line. So the outlooks that companies issue with their earnings reports in April will be critical to whether Wall Street goes bull or bear.

Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist at The Hartford, expects that, at best, the market will hold its gains but not push much higher as investors examine the coming quarterly reports from companies. "Going sideways," she said, "would be a victory."

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