The Dow and the S&P 500 fell on Friday, pummeled by worries about the lack of details on the U.S. government's bank rescue plan, though the S&P pulled back from the brink of a 12-year low after the White House said it supported a privately held banking system.
Fears that some major banks could be nationalized had earlier driven the Dow to more than six-year lows. The White House made its comments after the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Christopher Dodd, said it might be necessary to take control of some banks.
The White House comments helped pull the Nasdaq near break-even, and shares of Bank of America
Earlier, we were selling off because you had Sen. Chris Dodd scaring people with talk about nationalization. Then, you had the White House press secretary say that a privately held system is the way to go, said Neil Massa, senior U.S. trader at MFC Global Investment Management.
Investors are also looking for the details of the plan, which are expected next week, he added.
CNBC reported that the U.S. Treasury Department would release more details of the Obama administration's bank rescue plan next week. A Treasury spokesman declined comment.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> shed 68.50 points, or 0.92 percent, to 7,397.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> declined 6.81 points, or 0.87 percent, to 772.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> inched up 2.08 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,444.90.
Besides financials, top drags included energy companies, with Chevron
Heading into the last hour of trading, Bank of America was down 7.4 percent to $3.63 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Citigroup was off 17 percent at $2.07.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news conference: This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go, ensuring they are regulated sufficiently by this government.
After the Dow broke through November's bear market lows on Thursday, investors worried that the S&P 500 <.SPX> might not be far from violating its three-month lows. There was also concern the market could retest levels not seen since 1997.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Leslie Adler)