June 24 - Summary: Stocks end in the middle of the day's drop as reassuring comments from top Fed officials partly offset investor fears central bank action in the U.S. and China will slow global growth. Conway G. Gittens reports.
A global equity sell-off loses some of its strength after two top Fed officials soothe rattled nerves. Wall Street fought back from a 2 percent decline to end above the lows. The Dow ending down 139 points, the S&P 500 down 19 and the Nasdaq down 36. Trading was erratic as investors hang on to every word or signal on when the Fed may start curtailing the extra help it is giving to the economy. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, even though a critic of the current stimulus plan, admitted in a speech the Fed is not close to an "exit strategy." Meanwhile, New York Fed President William Dudley said as a general idea - interest rate policy has to be supportive after a financial crisis. Those comments helped reverse an earlier sell-off in the bond market, where interest rates on the 10-year note shot above 2.6 percent for the first time in almost two years. Besides the Fed, investors are struggling with fears China could hamper the global economy as the central bank there tries to reign in speculative lending. Economically-sensitive stocks in the energy sector, like Peabody Energy, Cliffs Natural Resources and Consol Energy were noticeably weak. Oracle and Microsoft are hooking up on the cloud. The two software companies teaming up to gain traction in cloud computing, where both giants are losing out to smaller rivals. Shares of Oracle and Microsoft - once bitter rivals - both moving up in a down market. Tenet Healthcare is buying Vanguard Health for $1.73 billion. The combined hospital operator hopes to benefit from health care reform. Tenet shares rallied 4-1/2 percent, while Vanguard surged about 67 percent. In Europe.. Delta has completed its purchase of a 49-percent stake in Britain's Virgin Atlantic. The two plan to start cross-selling seats as early as July after getting approval from EU and U.S. regulators. The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to also give the thumbs up. As for markets: losses of 1.2 to 1.7 percent from Germany to France to the U.K.