It was a week of dramatic, even historic developments, sending the market hundreds of points in both directions, posing difficult calls for any trader, much less an average investor.
Fed, Chase To the Rescue
The week began with news of a stunning rescue mission, launched jointly by the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York and JPMorgan Chase , targeted at Bear Stearns , but under the threat of nothing less than a meltdown of the global financial system.
A weekend of frantic negotiations ended with an agreement to sell Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase for just two dollars a share -- less than a year after Bear Stearns shares were going for $160.
On CNBC, fund manager Bernie McGinn saw it as a signal to get back into financial stocks,
specifically AIG, despite an $11 billion write-down.
"I would buy it right here," he told CNBC. "The $11 billion write-down, it's not really an economic event, it's more of an accounting event."
Buy the Numbers
The accounting events got a lot more upbeat on Tuesday: Investment banks posted surprisingly-strong earnings. Federal Reserve policy-makers slashed the Federal Funds Rate three-quarters of a percentage point. And the market enjoyed a relief rally that took the Dow Jones Industrials to the fourth-highest daily point gain in history.
David Katz of Matrix Asset Advisors focused on technology stocks as the best way to play the rally.
"Technology is taking quite a beating of late," he said. "We think things like Dell and Cisco, Microsoft, Novellus are great prices here."
Not everyone was caught up in the euphoria. Morningstar's Mitchell Corwin and Jeff Auxier of Auxier Asset Management continued to recommend that investors remain defensive. Their particular emphasis was on the stocks of food companies, with lots of consumers curbing their dining-out habits in favor of home cooking.
"This difficult environment certainly impacts consumers in a lot of ways, but one way is they've been shunning 'casual diners,'" Corwin said. "They've been eating at home more, and that benefits these companies."
"That bodes well for most of the other players, like Unilever in the packaged-foods area, and Kroger in the supermarket area," added Auxier.
Success Is In the Cards
Tuesday's huge rally largely disappeared on Wednesday, as the Dow Jones Industrials gave back nearly 300 of the 420 points they had gained the day before. New worries grew about the possibility of more troubles at banks still grappling with mortgage-related debt.
But Wall Street put a big gain on its VISA card. The credit Goliath went public, under the prestigious single-letter ticker symbol "V" surrendered by Vivendi two years ago. VISA's initial public offering became the most lucrative IPO in the history of the American marketplace, closing with a 28 percent gain over its offering price.
David Menlow of IPOfinancial.com saw it coming.
"Two ways we would go with this stock," he told CNBC before the opening bell. "You buy it when it goes down, and you buy it when it goes up, because they are the biggest and the best at what they do."
That bit of good news, plus a better-than-expected regional manufacturing report and an upbeat analyst note on financials, helped the Dow close up with a 2.2 percent gain on Thursday.