Mortgage deal sends stocks mostly higher


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

NEW YORK » A deal to help head off more mortgage foreclosures pulled Wall Street out of a slump yesterday, giving stocks a mostly higher close. Democratic lawmakers reached an agreement with Citigroup Inc. on a plan to let bankruptcy judges alter loans in an effort to prevent homes from going into foreclosure. Other lenders are expected to follow suit.

Wall Street was down for much of the session after a profit warning from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. intensified fears that consumers are even worse off than thought. Their reluctance to spend - evident in yesterday's retail sales reports from many of the nation's biggest merchants - could make it harder for the country to recover from the recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a modest decline while the technology-focused Nasdaq composite index rose more than 1 percent. Tech stocks gained on the belief that the industry will lead the market's recovery. The number of advancing stocks outpaced decliners by about 2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Wal-Mart said December sales at stores open for at least a year rose by 1.2 percent, including fuel, a weaker performance than analysts expected. The nation's largest retailer also slashed its projection for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, and its shares fell more than 7 percent.

The Dow ended down 27.24, or 0.31 percent, at 8,742.46 after being down as much as 119.

Broader stock indicators advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.08, or 0.34 percent, to 909.73, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 17.95, or 1.12 percent, to 1,617.01.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 4.91, or 0.99 percent, to 502.01.

Advancing issues outpaced decliners by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to a light 4.34 billion shares compared with 4.57 billion shares traded Wednesday.

The dollar fell against most other currencies, while gold prices rose.

On Wednesday, the Dow fell 245 on worries about unemployment and warnings from technology giant Intel Corp. and other blue chip names about poor business conditions.

Light, sweet crude fell 93 cents to settle at $41.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wal-Mart fell $4.16, or 7.5 percent, to $51.38.

Target Corp., however, rose 51 cents to $37.52 after the retailer's December sales declined less than expected.