Stocks found a measure of support late Friday but still finished with a decline, after the White House reaffirmed its belief in a privately owned banking system and after the Treasury Department said it would release some details of its bank rescue plan next week. The DOW bounced back from a decline to its lowest price since June 1997.


Let me reassure as best I can on banks, 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. That's been our belief for quite some time and we continue to have that.


Earlier today, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said that a short-term nationalization might be necessary.


“I don’t welcome that at all, but I could see how it’s possible it may happen,” Mr. Dodd said. “I’m concerned that we may end up having to do that, at least for a short time.”


Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis attributed speculation about the government taking over his institution to a lack of understanding regarding the company's operations. Shares were down over 35% at one point during the day but finished with a loss of just 2.54%.


Our company continues to be profitable, Lewis said in a statement. We see no reason why a company that is profitable with strong levels of capital and liquidity and that continues to lend actively should be considered for nationalization.


Economist Nouriel Roubini, who correctly predicted in 2006 that the housing bubble would burst, said on his RGE Monitor today that two key elements are still missing if a near-depression is to be avoided; a clean-up of the banking system and an across-the-board reduction in the unsustainable debt burden of millions of insolvent households, which includes principal reductions on mortgages.


Nationalizations will be necessary for many banks, along with a triage of solvent and insolvent institutions, he said.


At Friday's close of floor trading on the NYSE, the DOW was on 7367.50 after falling 98.45 points (-1.19%), its lowest closing price since October 2002. The S&P finished on 770.10 with a loss of 8.84 points (-1.13%),  17.66 points above its Nov. 20 closing low. The technology-heavy NASDAQ closed on 1442.82 after declining by 25.15 points (-1.71%).


The dollar was lower across the board, ending the day with a decline of 1.29% to the euro, 0.99% against the pound, 0.03% to Australia's dollar and 1.23% against the yen.


Treasuries rose as stocks declined. Yield on the 2-year note fell 4.8 basis points to 0.932% while yield on the 10-year note fell 6.9 basis points to 2.777%.


Crude for March delivery was recently trading down 20 cents (-0.51%) to $39.28 per barrel after yesterday's sharp increase.


Gold for April delivery was recently trading higher by $17.60 (1.8%) to 993.70 per ounce after hitting a high on $1004.90.