Stocks kicked off the first half with some wild see-saw action as investors cheered GM's June sales report and coped with another surge in oil prices.
The Dow industrials plunged into bear-market territory straight out of the gate, then got a boost after the Institute for Supply Management's gauge of manufacturing activity popped above the key 50 mark-- which indicates growth -- in June, snapping four months of contraction.
The market again suffered a setback after Ford reported its sales plunged 19 percentin June as sales of its best-selling F-series pickup truck were cut by 41 percent and SUV sales dropped by more than half.
But a surprising sales report from General Motors propelled GM shares 15 percent, which in turn helped push all three major indexes into positive territory.
helped the market pare losses in afternoon trading, with the Dow down only about 20 points.
GM's sales fell 8.3 percent on an adjusted basis, a much smaller decline than the 19-percent drop expected. And, the answer investors have been waiting for: GM held its lead over Toyota, selling 265,937 vehicles during the month, compared with Toyota's 193,234.
(CNBC reports sales figures on an adjusted basis accounting for the number of selling days in the most recent month compared with the year prior. There were 24 selling days in June, compared with 27 days a year earlier.)
U.S. sales at Toyota fell 12 percent while sales at Honda climbed 14 percent.
Today's gyrations follow the worst first-half of the year since the first half of 1970 on Monday.
Here are a few market tea leaves to chew on today: The Dow industrials have risen on 15 of the last 18 July 1sts. With the way this market is see-sawing, anything is possible by the closing bell. And then there's the "Thursday syndrome" as explained by UBS floor manager Art Cashin last week: A huge sell-off on a Thursday followed by a couple days of volatile trading and then capitulation on Tuesday, with a reversal in the afternoon.
Light, sweet crude shot up more than $1, settling at $140.97 a barrel. Earlier, crude had pushed above $143 a barrel.
Disputes over what's causing the spike in oil prices continued with billionaire investor Wilbur Ross telling CNBC that the dramatic rise in the price is a bubbleand there is no apparent problem with the supply of crude.
But the heads of major oil companies countered the statements that speculation was driving the price, saying supply was a problem.
survived another round of rumors. Watching the investment bank struggle under the attack of short sellers and rumor mongers has felt a little like watching the National Geographic Channel in recent months. Already beaten down, the stock tumbled 11 percent on Monday amid rumors that the brokerage would face an inevitable sale a la Bear Stearns. But shares rebounded 5 percent today, trading above $20 a share, after Morgan Stanley recommended late Monday that investors buy Lehman shares and slapped a $31 price target on the stock.
Among the few brave souls to recommend buying into financials these days, one name that comes up repeatedly is JPMorgan Chase. And, the proof was in the numbers: JPM underwrote more than $147 billion dollars globally in the second quarter, leading Wall Street in the category, according to data from ThomsonReuters data. Citigroup, however, led in terms of fees.
Swiss bank UBS, Europe's biggest casualty of the subprime crisis, failed to calm investors' nerves about writedowns to come and instead shuffled its top management. Shares dropped to a 10-year low.
In merger and acquisition news, Belgian brewer InBev continued its courtship for Anheuser-Busch , saying it held to its existing price of $65 per share in cash because it represented the full and fair value of the company despite weak stock markets.
TUESDAY: Auto sales; Fed's Lockhart speaks; Earnings from Apollo Group after the bell
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; factory orders; crude inventories; earnings from Family Dollar
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Jobs report, ISM services index; Stock market closes at 1pm ET and bond market closes at 2pm ET
FRIDAY: All major U.S. markets closed for Fourth of July holiday
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