Stocks rise, close with ‘dramatic gain’

Trader Daniel Ryan laughs as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday. Wall Street pulled off a comeback surging higher in late trading and wiping out what looked to be yet another decline. Richard Drew, The Associated Press

AP

Trader Daniel Ryan laughs as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday. Wall Street pulled off a comeback surging higher in late trading and wiping out what looked to be yet another decline. Richard Drew, The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK – It started with another stomach-turning drop at the open, and a loss of more than 300 points by midday. Then stocks changed course, raced higher and closed with a dramatic gain of nearly 300.

This wasn’t just volatility. This was Wall Street whiplash.

Amid tumbling housing prices, an ongoing credit crisis and growing fears of a recession, turbulence has become a hallmark of Wall Street in recent weeks. And after five straight days of pullbacks, analysts saw some positive signs in Wednesday’s trading.

Investors certainly found a reason to buy, perhaps encouraged by the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented 0.75-point interest rate cut a day earlier and a widely held bet on another half-point cut next week.

By day’s end, the Dow had swung 631.86 points from its low point to its high – the largest single-day turnaround in more than five years.

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“You might say this is a belated reaction to what the Fed did this week, compounded by hopes for the Fed to do more next week,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.

The Dow had plunged more than 465 points just after the opening bell Tuesday as the market digested news of the rate cut. But stocks rallied to finish down just 128, then tacked on a 2.5-percent gain on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 298.98 at 12,270.17. It had been down 323.29 at its low point.

The swing from negative to positive territory of 631.86 points was the largest point move since July 24, 2002, according to Dow Jones Indexes. The largest intraday point swing, a metric that Dow started calculating in 1995, was a 721-point swing on April 14, 2000.

“Volatility is certainly the norm now and not the exception,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

He noted that all but two trading days this year had seen triple-digit swings in the Dow, three of them 300 points.

On Wednesday, traders who bet on the Fed’s target fed funds rate were pricing in a 100 percent chance of a 0.50-percentage-point cut by the central bank when it meets next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rate cuts are designed to stimulate borrowing and, in turn, business activity and the overall economy. They also will eventually boost profit margins for lenders.

AP Business Writers Leslie Wines and Tim Paradis in New York contributed to this report