Worrying comments regarding economy from Fed Chief slam stocks

US stocks ended sharply lower today, Thursday, 14 February, 2008 after Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke expressed his worries about the US economy in the near term. Though market opened modestly higher in the morning, sellers took position quite soon after Bernanke's testimony. Each of the ten economic sectors finished the session in negative territory. The day's worst performers were in the Tech sector, followed by Financials.

Before market opened today morning, Jobless claims report for the week ended 9 February came in. The figure fell to 348K from the previous reading of 357K. The number was basically in-line with expectations. Separately, the December trade deficit fell to $58.8 billion from $63.1 billion.

Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson testified before the Senate Banking Committee this afternoon. Bernanke alluded to the possibility the U.S. is nearing a recession and continued to emphasize downside risks to the economy. He clearly indicated that the Fed will likely continue to ease interest rates, if required. The duo also continued to forecast slow growth. The Fed Chairman stated that financial companies will likely face further write-downs.

The Dow Jones industrial Average ended the day with a loss of 175 points at 12,375. The Nasdaq Composite Index, finished lower by 41 points at 2,332. S&P 500 finished lower by 18.3 points at 1,349.

Twenty-nine out of thirty Dow stocks ended in the red today. Chipmaker Intel led the group of Dow laggards which was closely followed by other financial stocks. American Express, JP Morgan, AIG and Citigroup – all slipped by more than 2%. Exxon Mobil was the Dow's sole winner.

Crude prices ended substantially higher today after Energy Department yesterday reported that that crude inventories for last week rose less than expected. Crude-oil futures for light sweet crude for March delivery today closed at $95.46/barrel (higher by $2.19/barrel or 2.1%) on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price earlier rose to an intraday high of $95.6. Prices are 65% higher than a year ago.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 1.4 billion shares, and for every stock on the rise, four posted declines. On the Nasdaq, nearly 2.3 billion traded and declines topped advancers by ratios of more than 3 to 1.

Tomorrow will be a day of economic reports. The New York Empire Manufacturing Survey and Import and Export Prices report coupled with the Industrial Production report are due before tomorrow's open. After the opening bell, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey is scheduled for release.