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Stocks fall as investors seek some certainty


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POSTED: Saturday, February 14, 2009

NEW YORK » Investors sent Washington a message this week: They won't commit to stocks until the government commits to a plan.

Stocks ended lower yesterday, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average to its lowest close since last November and leaving it with a weekly decline of 5.2 percent.

The gears were moving in Washington. Yesterday, the White House said President Obama will outline steps to stem home foreclosures next Wednesday, and the House passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill.

The bulk of the market's decline this week came Tuesday, when U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he would assess banks' financial health and remove their toxic assets with the help of the private sector—but provided few details about how the process would work.

A spate of gut-wrenching economic and corporate earnings reports over the past few weeks have also left the market deeply unsettled.

Yesterday, the University of Michigan delivered the latest dose of gloomy news, reporting that consumer sentiment dropped sharply in February.

The Dow fell 82.35, or 1.04 percent, to 7,850.41. It was the lowest close since Nov. 20, when the blue-chip index settled at a five-and-a-half month low of 7,552.29.

U.S. markets are closed Monday for Presidents Day.

Broader stock indicators also fell.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.35, or 1.00 percent, to 826.84, and the Nasdaq composite index decreased 7.35, or 0.48 percent, to 1,534.36. The S&P 500 ended the week down 4.8 percent, and the Nasdaq finished the week down 3.6 percent.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 2.06, or 0.46 percent, to 448.36.

Bond prices declined. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.90 percent from 2.79 percent late Thursday.

The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.30 percent from 0.28 percent.

The dollar fell against most other major currencies. Gold prices also declined.

Light, sweet crude rebounded $3.53 to settle at $37.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after falling to its lowest price this year on Thursday.

Not all companies' quarterly results have disappointed Wall Street.

PepsiCo said its fourth-quarter profit fell, but the soft drink maker's adjusted results met analysts' expectations. Pepsi shares rose 57 cents to $52.57.