Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dow Jones Industrial Average marks worst February point drop in history

S&P 500 closes under November lows

Dow Jones Industrial Average marks worst February point drop in history

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As stocks on Friday tallied another month of stiff losses, investors were especially focused on the S&P 500 Index, with the broad market gauge closing below its November lows -- and also below the 740-to-750 range some had hoped for.

"Only on a two-day close below 740 will I run for the hills. A close over 740 today would be considered a successful test of the November 2008 low," said Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus.

The S&P closed at 752.44 on Nov. 20, though the benchmark on Monday undercut that prior bear-market low. The S&P 500 fell points to 17.74 points, or 2.4%, to 735.09, giving it a weekly loss of 4.5% and a monthly hit of 11%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 119.15 points, or 1.7%, to 7,062.93, leaving it with a weekly loss of 4.5% and a monthly decline of 11.7%.

"Hopefully we can get back to 800 on the S&P, but first we have to get past resistance at 752. If we can close above that one resistance level I think it would be a mild positive," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC.

Bank stocks are back in the market's crosshairs Friday, as the government agrees to boost its stake in Citigroup. MarketWatch's Greg Morcroft reports. (Feb. 27)
On Friday, financials led the declines, with Citigroup Inc. down 39% on news the U.S. government was hiking its stake in the battered bank. See full story on Citibank.
The technology-laden Nasdaq Composite fell 13.63 points, or 1%, to end at 1,377.84, down 4.4% for the week and 6.7% for February.

February falls

After a horrendous January, stocks presented a like scenario for February.

The S&P's finish was its worst since the 731.54 hit at the close of Dec. 18, 1996, with its percentage decline in February proving to be the second-worst on record following the 18.4% hit that came in 1933.

After the worst January performance in its 113-year history, the Dow industrials tallied the index's worst February point decline, and its second-worst percentage drop since 1933, when it lost 15.6%.

The Nasdaq decline proved its worst percentage drop since 2001, when it discarded 22.67% of its value.

"For the session we are going to see a disproportionate amount of attention given to the close on the S&P, and whether we see a close below the cycle low from November that would signal potential large losses," said Alan Ruskin, an analyst with RBS Greenwich Capital, in comments ahead of the opening bell.

For the S&P, "the 740 to 750 area that we've been hanging around here is pretty important because that is where we've seen support in 2002 and 2003. Below that there is really not a lot of market support from a technical perspective," said Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates.

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