New York Stocks crawled back from earlier steep losses Friday after the Federal Reserve and other major central banks intervened in an attempt to jump-start frozen credit markets, with the Dow ending up 58 points, or 0.4 percent, higher for the week.
"It's helping that central banks are doing their job," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co. "There is a crisis in the credit market and it's an important assurance that they'll be there."
Another view "is the idea by acting aggressively, the Fed - like the ECB (European Central Bank) - is creating alarm about the scale of the problem at hand," said Tony Crescenzi, a bond strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. LLC.
After erasing triple-digit losses, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 31.1 points lower at 13,239.5, with 18 of its 30 components still in the red.
The S&P 500 index ended up 0.58 points to 1,453.64, while the Nasdaq Composite closed 11.6 points down at 2,544.89.
At the New York Stock Exchange, 2.5 billion shares were exchanged, and declining issues outpaced advancers 5 to 3. At the Nasdaq, 3.2 billion shares traded, with decliners outpacing advancing stocks 3 to 2.
Blue chips Citigroup Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase were among the shares faltering after leading the attempted turnaround. Citigroup was off 0.7 percent, while J.P. Morgan declined 0.1 percent.
Continuing the bad news trend on Friday, Countrywide Financial Corp. said its allowance for credit losses climbed 97 percent from the end of last year. Its stock was off 5.9 percent. The nation's largest home lender said trouble in the mortgage market seriously threatens its earnings and financial condition.
Of the Wall Street firms, Bear Stearns Companies Inc. was off 3.4 percent, Merrill Lynch Company Inc. fell 0.6 percent, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. declined 1.8 percent and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. dropped 1.1 percent.
Shares of Washington Mutual Inc. fell 2.2 percent after the Seattle-based bank said liquidity in the secondary market for home loans and mortgage-backed securities has "diminished significantly."
The Fed on Friday injected a total of $38 billion into the markets in three steps, which began with a $19 billion injection into the banking system, followed by a second addition of $16 billion and finally a third dose of $3 billion.
The Fed's decision to conduct multiple operations could mean "there is a greater strain in the market than is evident" or that the central bank wants to make sure there is enough liquidity in the financial system to help it stabilize, Crescenzi said.
Earlier, the European Central Bank added another $83.6 billion, after Thursday's $130 billion injection, and the Bank of Japan on Friday added $8.5 billion.
Fed fund futures are now pricing in an inter-meeting rate cut within the next week by the Federal Reserve, according to Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Shatz.
U.S. stocks tumbled on Thursday, sending the Dow industrials down by nearly 400 points, as credit-related anxiety was revived after BNP Paribas, France's largest bank, said it had halted three funds with exposure to bad U.S. home loans.