US stocks finish higher as credit worries ease

Wall Street was clearly still shaky after Thursday's sharp pullback, which took the Dow down more than 360 points.

wall street us flag 88 2 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
wall street us flag 88 2
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
SHARES WALL STREET Stocks twisted their way through another difficult session Friday, discouraged about the US economy's prospects but still managing a higher finish after some concerns about the beleaguered financial sector lifted late in the session. Word shortly before the close that Citigroup Inc.'s board planned to meet in an emergency session over the weekend helped that stock and other financials pare sharp losses. Friday's session ended a week made turbulent not only by bad news from the financial sector but also by spiking commodity prices and comments from the US Federal Reserve that it might be less generous with interest rate cuts in the coming months. A highly anticipated Labor Department report showing employers added 166,000 jobs in October - the most in five months and nearly double what analysts had been expecting - didn't give stocks much of a lift a day after a sharp pullback as investors' unease about the financial sector seemed to blanket trading. Wall Street was clearly still shaky after Thursday's sharp pullback, which took the Dow down more than 360 points - the fourth biggest drop of the year. The Dow rose 27.23, or 0.20 percent, to 13,595.10 after being down more than 120 points earlier in the session and fluctuating between gains and losses. Broader stock indicators also closed higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.21, or 0.08%, to 1,509.65, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.55, or 0.56%, to 2,810.38. The biggest losers in the stock market Friday, as they have been in the past few months, were financial institutions - including Merrill Lynch & Co., Washington Mutual Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Citigroup, fresh off its biggest decline in four years on Thursday, fell again Friday but pared much of the day's losses following report of the planned meeting. The stock closed down 78 cents, or 2%, to $37.73. Merrill fell $4.91, or 7.9%, to $57.28, JPMorgan fell $1.17, or 2.6%, to $43.15, while Washington Mutual fell $1.94, or 7.5%, to $23.81. EUROPE Stocks fell for the second successive day as fears over financial stocks' exposure to credit market losses continued to batter the beleaguered banking sector. The FTSE 100 Index dropped 0.8% to 6,530.60, while France's CAC-40 Index lost 0.2% to 5,720.42. Germany's DAX Index fell 0.4% to 7,849.49. UK bank Barclays was particularly hard hit on speculation that it had had to approach the Bank of England for emergency funding and concerns over its profit outlook. The shares ended 6% lower, despite the Bank of England's indication there had been no use of its standing loan facility, which allows banks to borrow overnight at a penalty rate. First-half profits from British Airways added to the negative mood. Its shares fell 2.7% after it trimmed its guidance for full-year sales growth to 3% to 3.5% from its earlier 4% due to continued weakness of the US dollar. Pay television broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group fell 4.5%, despite a 83,000 rise in net new pay television customers, as the company said first-quarter net profit fell 28% on higher costs. ASIA Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index tumbled 352.92 points, or 2.1%, to finish at 16,517.48, dragged down by financial shares. In Hong Kong, the blue chip Hang Seng Index sank 3.25% to close at 30,468.34. The index is still up 52.6% this year. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.3%, while Singapore's Straits Times index fell 2.3% to 3,715 and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, fell 2.1% to close at 2,019.34. CURRENCY The dollar finished the week with a fresh record low against the euro, receiving only fleeting relief Friday from stronger-than-expected US employment data for October. Late Friday afternoon in New York, the euro was at $1.4511 from $1.4433 late Thursday, while the dollar was at Y114.80 from Y114.59. The euro was at Y166.59 from Y165.38. The pound was at $2.0890 from $2.0787, according to EBS. The US unemployment rate was unchanged last month at 4.7%. Commodity currencies, including the Canadian dollar, have also benefited against the dollar. Early Friday, the Canadian dollar set another record high in the wake of a strong Canadian jobs report, with the greenback reaching a low of C$0.9327 from C$0.9445 just before the release. COMMODITIES Light, sweet crude for December delivery gained $2.44 to settle at a record $95.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier topping $96 for the second time this week. December gold surged $14.80 to settle at $808.50 ounce on the Nymex - the first time gold has settled over $800 an ounce since 1980.