Wall Street Ends Volatile Day Lower; Dow Jones Industrial Average Falls 63

Wall Street seesawed through an erratic session Monday, trying to stabilize but ultimately finishing near its lows of the day amid worries about mortgage defaults, a strengthening yen and tumbling stock markets abroad.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 63.69 points, or 0.3 percent, at 12,050.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 13.05 points, or 0.94 percent, at 1,374.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 27.32 points, or 1.15 percent, at 2,340.68.

The major indexes fluctuated throughout the day, with the Dow Jones industrials bobbing between positive and negative territory as investors tried to size up where the market was headed after last week's big decline. The Dow finished 63 points lower, having fallen eight of the last nine sessions.

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The market remained jittery about about losses over soured subprime loans, or loans to customers with poor credit ratings, as HSBC Holdings PLC, Europe's largest bank, said its 2006 earnings rose 5 percent but that it suffered $10.6 billion on losses on bad loans from its U.S. subprime mortgage operations.

Also pushing stocks down, a rising yen added to concerns over an erosion of the yen carry trade, which is the process of borrowing the low-yielding yen to acquire assets in other currencies with greater yields. A slowdown could hurt liquidity worldwide. By early afternoon, the U.S. dollar was below 116 yen, trading near three-month lows after falling from above 120 yen less than a week ago.

Though the markets were uneasy Monday, they were hardly out of control as the Dow traded within a 150-point range and stayed above the 12,000 mark, which it had surpassed for the first time in October last year.

"Stability is a good sign," said Todd Salamone, senior vice president of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. He noted that stocks could see volatility for months, but that over the long term, the market looks poised to climb. "Expectations for economic data, earnings data — both have been ratcheted lower. Markets tend to do better when expectations are low, because they have better odds for positive surprises."

Bond prices fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note at 4.51 percent, up from 4.50 percent late Friday. The dollar was higher against other major currencies except for the yen. Gold, though traditionally a safe-haven investment, continued to slide.

Oil prices dropped sharply, but lifted from earlier lows below $60 a barrel to finish down $1.57 at $60.07 on the New York Mercentile Exchange.

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