Midday Market Update: U.S. Stocks Trend Down from Early Morning Gains as Credit Concerns Deepen

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

Stocks were mostly lower today (Friday) on continued concerns the credit crisis will widen, while a rally in technology shares pushed the Nasdaq Composite Index higher on news of a $1 billion share buyback plan from online retailer Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). 

"There's going to be more write-downs, more problems," Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist at the Hartford Financial Group (HIG), said during an interview with Bloomberg Television. "It's hard to navigate a market like this."

At noon, the three major U.S. stock indices were narrowly mixed after declining from gains in early morning trading. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index slipped 50.07 points (-0.41%), to trade at 12,196.93. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index was up, gaining 7.65 points (0.33%), to reach 2,300.68. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 5.39 points (-0.40%), to settle at 1,331.52.

Basic materials, energy and technology each posted sector gains of more than 1%. The financial and healthcare sectors posted the biggest losses among the market sectors, down 0.68% and 0.64%, respectively.

In overseas markets, trading in China ended early Wednesday in honor of the Chinese New Year holiday. The markets were closed yesterday (Thursday) and today.

In Tokyo, Japan's Nikkei Index lost 189.91 points to end at 13,017.20, a 1.44% decline. Japan's markets will be closed on Monday for a public holiday, and some analysts said that traders were probably wary of holding their positions over the course of a three-day holiday weekend.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange had to halt trading in March 2008 TOPIX futures JTIc1, Reuters reported, due to a system glitch and, during the midday break, said that trading in those futures securities would remain suspended for the rest of the session. This led to an increase in selling, as investors were unable to hedge positions with futures contracts.

European and U.K. stocks showed small gains, with France's CAC40 an exception, thanks to comments from European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet that seemed to leave the door open for future ECB rate cuts.  Tech and mining shares rallied, while bank shares declined.

The U.S. greenback was up by 0.55% versus the euro at noon.

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