Milenko Kindl bnvnvnvb

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    NEW YORK - Financial markets grew more upbeat Thursday as political
    leaders said they struck an agreement in principle on a massive
    spending plan to revive the crippled financial system. The Dow Jones
    industrial average jumped about 200 points on optimism about the
    bailout, and demand for safe-haven assets remained high but eased
    slightly as some investors placed bets that a deal would help unclog
    credit markets.

    Stock market investors got a lift when key lawmakers said they would
    present the $700 billion plan to the Bush administration and hoped for
    a vote by both houses of Congress within days. Still, some resistance
    remained from House Republicans as the closing bell on Wall Street
    rang ahead of a meeting of congressional leaders at the White House.

    And after the close of trading, it was clear that plan could still
    face some obstacles. Stock futures weakened, signaling a lower open
    Friday, after Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Banking
    Committee, left the White House meeting and said the announced deal
    "is, obviously, no agreement."

    Trading that has been difficult for more than a week is likely to
    remain so in the coming days.

    "The market's going to experience volatility as the terms become
    known," said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at Channel
    Capital Research.

    Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
    Bernanke urged lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday to quickly sign off on
    the plan, which they said would help prop up the economy by removing
    billions of dollars in risky mortgage-related assets from financial
    firms' balance sheets. Fear of heavy losses on these assets has made
    banks hesitant to extend credit, which in turn threatens the overall
    economy by making it harder and more expensive for businesses and
    consumers to borrow money.

    President Bush highlighted what he sees as the urgency in a national
    address Wednesday night. Major elements are still being worked out,
    including how to phase in the mammoth cost of the package and whether
    the government will get an ownership stake in troubled companies.

    Alan Lancz, director at investment research group LanczGlobal, said
    stock market investors were encouraged that the rescue looked more
    likely than it had earlier in the week. He said the move could help
    unclog credit markets by allowing banks and investors to place values
    on assets tied to mortgages.

    "How do you establish a floor? Well, this is the bazooka. This is how
    you establish a floor," he said of the plan's goal of buying up the
    toxic debt.

    Still, some investors had their doubts. Demand eased but remained high
    for the 3-month Treasury bill, considered the safest short-term
    investment. Its yield rose to 0.72 percent from 0.49 percent late
    Wednesday. That means investors are still willing to earn the slimmest
    of returns in exchange for a safe place to put their money. The yield
    on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its
    price, rose to 3.84 percent from 3.81 late Wednesday.

    The Dow rose 196.89, or 1.82 percent, to 11,022.06. The gain helped
    erase some of the losses from heavy selling earlier in the week,
    though the blue chips still remain down by more than 360 points, or
    3.2 percent.

    Broader stock indicators also rose Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500
    index advanced 23.31, or 1.97 percent, to 1,209.18 and the Nasdaq
    composite index rose 30.89, or 1.43 percent, to 2,186.57.

    Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by nearly 3 to 1 on the New
    York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 5.73 billion
    shares, compared with 4.66 billion traded Wednesday.

    Roberts noted that the market's back-and-forth moves of late might be
    unnerving for investors but ultimately can leave stocks with little to
    show for all the volatility.

    "Most of this is just oscillating around a straight line," he said,
    noting that last week's huge daily moves, which also included triple-
    digit moves in the Dow, left stocks largely unchanged for the week.

    The dollar was mixed against other major currencies Thursday, while
    gold prices fell.

    Light, sweet crude for November delivery rose $2.29 to settle at
    $108.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

    Meanwhile, disappointing readings on employment, housing and demand
    for big-ticket manufactured goods, as well as a sobering forecast from
    General Electric Co., underscored the difficulties facing the economy.

    The Labor Department said the number of people seeking unemployment
    benefits increased by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 493,000 last
    week — the highest level in seven years and well above analysts'
    expectations of 445,000. Hurricanes Ike and Gustav added about 50,000
    new claims in Louisiana and Texas, the department said.

    The Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell sharply in August
    to the slowest pace in 17 years. The average sales price also fell by
    the largest amount on record. New homes sales dropped by 11.5 percent
    in August to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 460,000 units,
    the slowest sales pace since January 1991.

    The department also said orders for expensive manufactured goods sank
    in August by the largest amount in seven months as demand for both
    airplanes and cars sank. Durable goods orders fell by 4.5 percent last
    month, far worse than the 1.6 percent decline that economists expected
    and the biggest drop since a 4.7 percent fall in January.

    GE lowered its forecast for third-quarter and full-year earnings,
    citing unprecedented weakness and volatility in the financial services
    markets. The stock, which had declined in the early going, finished up
    $1.09, or 4.4 percent, to $25.68 alongside the gains in the broader

    The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 7.97, or 1.14
    percent, to 705.74.

    Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.90 percent. Britain's
    FTSE 100 rose 1.99 percent, Germany's DAX index added 1.99 percent,
    and France's CAC-40 jumped 2.73 percent.

    Milenko Kindl
    Banja Luka
    , Sep 25, 2008
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