The Dow and S&P 500 rose on Friday, capping a dismal November with a four-day rally, as financial stocks rallied on optimism over a proposed rescue for struggling homeowners and on heightened expectations for more interest-rate cuts.
Tech stocks were left behind, however, after Dell Inc (DELL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) fell by its most in seven years after a disappointing outlook, driving a 0.3 percent drop in the Nasdaq for the day. Investors also appeared to be rotating money from tech, until recently a market leader, and into the downtrodden financial sector.
Banks and mortgage lenders were the standouts following a report that the U.S. Treasury will soon unveil a plan to help stem the subprime mortgage crisis.
The interest-rate-sensitive plays, including Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research), also got a lift from comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said late on Thursday a resurgence in financial strains in recent weeks had dimmed the outlook for the U.S economy, raising speculation that policy-makers are willing to lower benchmark rates again.
The Fed wants to see that the mortgage interest-rate resets during the course of 2008 are not as onerous or as crippling as they can be, said Georges Yared, founder and chief investment officer of Yared Investment Research in Wayzata, Minnesota. The Fed is acting in defense of the consumer.
Investors were also emboldened by the week's big drop in oil prices, which was within $1 of the $100-a-barrel mark at the beginning of the week, feeding fears that high gasoline prices would depress consumer spending.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 59.99 points, or 0.45 percent, to end at 13,371.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 11.42 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,481.14. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 7.17 points, or 0.27 percent, at 2,660.96.
GOOD WEEK, BUT GRIM NOVEMBER
For the week, the Dow climbed 3 percent, the S&P 500 gained 2.8 percent and the Nasdaq gained 2.5 percent.
But even with the weekly advance, both the Dow and the S&P 500, marked their worst monthly drop in five years.
For the month of November, stocks lost ground: The Dow slid 4 percent, the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent, and the Nasdaq sank 6.9 percent, its worst monthly drop since July 2004, when it slumped 7.8 percent.
On Friday, U.S. crude oil for January delivery dropped $2.30, or 2.5 percent, to settle on the New York Mercantile Exchange at $88.71 a barrel -- the lowest settlement since October 24's close at $87.10.
BANKS AND LENDERS RALLY
Shares of Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the No. 2 U.S. bank, and JPMorgan Chase, the No. 3 U.S. bank, topped the list of major contributors to the S&P's advance.
Bank of America shares gained 3.4 percent to $46.13.
JPMorgan, also the Dow's second-biggest advancer, ended up 4.5 percent at $45.62 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Shares of American Express Co (AXP.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the third-largest credit card network, wound up as the top contributor to the Dow's climb, up 3.7 percent at $58.98 on the NYSE.
Shares of Citigroup, the No. 1 U.S. bank, also ranked among the session's biggest gainers, ending up 3.1 percent at $33.30. Citi shares racked up their biggest weekly advance in four years.
The S&P financial index rose 2.9 percent.
Beaten-down mortgage-related shares such as Countrywide Financial Corp (CFC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Freddie Mac (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) also advanced after sources familiar with the situation said the Treasury is close to announcing a plan it is brokering with mortgage industry leaders to hold interest payments steady for many subprime borrowers facing foreclosure.
Countrywide shares shot up 16.3 percent to $10.82 on the NYSE, while shares of Freddie Mac, the No. 2 U.S. home financing provider, gained 18.8 percent to $35.07.
DELL SPOILS THE PARTY, DUDE
But on the Nasdaq, Dell's outlook soured sentiment, tripping high-flying bellwethers such as Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIMM.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Apple (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research), the maker of the iPhone and the iPod.
Shares of Dell, the No. 2 computer maker, notched their biggest tumble in seven years, falling 12.8 percent to close at $24.54. RIM shares lost 6.8 percent to $113.82, while Apple shares declined 1.1 percent to $182.22.
Volume was active on the NYSE, where about 1.93 billion shares changed hands, exceeding last year's daily average of 1.84 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 2.61 billion shares traded, well above last year's daily average of 2.02 billion.
Advancing shares outnumbered decliners by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by 8 to 7 on the Nasdaq.