Stocks Rebound on Rate Cut

January 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Stocks got off to a dismal start today but rebounded shortly as investors let a dramatic move by the Federal Reserve settle in.The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 460 points at one point in the day and as little as 22 points at another. But in the end -- after an extremely volatile day of trading -- the Dow closed 128 points down at 11,971. The Nasdaq dropped 47 points closing at 2,292.

The losses were a lot less worse than most were expecting at the start of the morning.

The saving grace came with the Federal Reserve's dramatic action this morning, cutting interest rates .75 percentage points. The unplanned cut came after two days of massive losses in stock markets around the world but was not enough to prevent Wall Street from opening today to a dismal start.

The move was enough to save the day on Wall Street and actually led to European ending the day up instead of down.

This morning's emergency action by the Fed was the biggest single downward move in the key Fed funds interest rate -- what banks pay for overnight loans -- since a 1 percentage point cut Aug. 16, 1982.

The key Fed funds interest rate now stands at 3.5 percent.

The move came after stock markets from Japan and China to Germany and England saw some of the steepest one-day slides in decades upon fears that the U.S. economy is heading downward.

Investors around the world signaled a lack in confidence in President Bush's ability to pull the American economy away from recession. The expectation is if the U.S. economy falters, the effects will be felt around the globe.

"If the U.S. market slows down or goes into a recession, the rest of the world is going to feel the pinch, too," said Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management and a "Good Morning America" financial contributor. "A sneeze in the United States can cause a flu around the rest of the globe."

U.S. stock markets were closed yesterday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down more than 440 points, more than 3.5 percent lower than Friday's close. The NASDAQ opened down 110 points, or 4.6 percent.

But as the trading day continued, the market started to look a bit better. Just one hour after the open, the market rebounded significantly with the Dow down only 185 points. Late in the day, the Dow looked like it might even move into positive territory but in the end closed down 128 points.

The Federal Reserve has long been scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to vote on whether to cut rates.

All eyes on Wall Street are now looking toward that meeting to see whether the central bank, under the leadership of Ben Bernanke, will cut rates yet again.

Bush and Congress

Friday, Bush called for a $140 billion economic stimulus package to help give the sagging U.S. economy a "shot in the arm." The White House is urging congressional Democrats and Republicans to issue tax rebates of up to $800 for individuals and $1,600 for married couples as well as tax breaks for businesses.

When stock markets opened in Asia Monday, it became clear quickly that investors there were not satisfied that the president's plan would work. A few hours later, Europeans followed with their own dramatic drops.

Germany's main stock index tumbled 7.2 percent, Indian's 7.4 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 5.5 percent.

Some of these drops were the largest seen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In Asia, today was not much better. Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 5.65 percent -- its biggest percentage drop in nearly a decade. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 8.65 percent.

European markets are also down again today, but are not seeing as steep of a drop.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson addressed the global stock decline this morning in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"The structure of our economy is sound," Paulson said, noting that there is still job growth, although a modest amount.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders in both parties are meeting today with Bush at the White House to discuss a stimulus bill.

"I'm confident that we can get this done long before winter turns to spring," Paulson said of such a package.

"Time is of the essence and the president stands ready to work on a bipartisan basis to enact economic growth legislation as soon as possible," he added.

Is This a Global Recession?

The last global recession was in 2001 ? the fallout from Sept. 11 and the dot-com bubble bursting.

So are we in a global recession now?

Hobson, for one, says no. "In a global recession, there's nowhere to hide, everyone suffers," she said. "Keep in mind, recession is a far cry from a depression."

The United States suffers a recession once every six years on average, and the 10 recessions since World War II have lasted no longer than 16 months, she said.

Hobson noted that today's economic troubles are being felt by people across all parts of the job market.

"This is a big departure from the past, when it was workers in manufacturing jobs or those with thin work histories that had to be most worried," Hobson said.

Should I Sell My Stocks?

While the economy may get worse before it gets better, Hobson advises stockholders not to push the panic button.

"Right now the market is like a bargain bin ? it's a great buying opportunity, stocks are getting cheap," Hobson said. "Also, if you've been sitting on the sidelines of the housing market with cash for a down payment and good credit, you're in the driver's seat. You could get a major deal."

David McPherson, founder of Four Ponds Financial Planning, a financial planning firm and ABC News columnist, also advised people not to panic.

"For most investors, selling today would be the wrong decision," McPherson said. "You don't want to make a decision with long-term impact based on short-term volatility."

"Sell out of panic, and there's a good chance you will regret it later on. I know people who moved nearly all of their holdings into cash after the 9/11 attacks and then missed the later rebound and terrific gains of the past few years," McPherson added. "I can't tell you when the market will recover, but I can tell you that holding all of your assets in risk-free accounts such as bank CDs is not the way to a comfortable retirement."


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