On the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, stock markets begin the trading day depressed — but not by fear of more violence.
Uncertainty over guidance from Lehman Brothers casts a pall over the entire banking sector, including Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs .
Analysts at several firms, including JPMorgan Chase, Wachovia, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Sanford Bernstein, cut price targets and widen loss projections for Lehman. But Sanford breaks from the pack in predicting that Lehman will not suffer as badly as Bear Stearns did.
On the other hand, Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies, isn't even remotely reassured by events.
"We thought getting news out of Lehman was going to clear the dark cloud but it really doesn't. It just leaves us with a company that's limping along, that may or may not make it," Hogan tells Reuters.
What You Were Reading:
- Rebecca Darst on Merrill, Lehman, AIG, GE
- Charts: After Lehman, Who's Next?
- U.S. Headed for Depression: Manager
Martin Hennecke is more moribund: The senior manager of private clients at Tyche tells CNBC that the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will devalue the U.S. dollar and engender a full depression.
Uncertainty remains the order of the day. Some account for surprise upswings in stocks by pointing to the heavy short covering this week. (See CNBC.com's short activity analysis). Others voice genuine optimism.
"I think the perception on the Street is that...we're getting close to seeing a washout of the bad news as far as the financial sector is concerned," said Tom Schrader, managing director for U.S. equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets.
The Present Day:
- Industry Executive Says Credit Agencies Face Overhaul
- Fuld Says Being 'Dumped On' for Lehman Failure
- Slideshow: The Worst American CEOs of All Time
European Union market regulators have not held any emergency talks regarding Lehman's fate, as they are sure the U.S. government will step in if it looks like doomsday, according to Eddy Wymeersch, chairman of the Committee of European Securities Regulators.
But Richard LeFrak, president of the LeFrak Organization, says the Lehman mess is only distracting everyone from even worse threats to the financial sector:
"I think WaMu's a bigger problem, frankly," LeFrak tells CNBC. "If they start having a run on the banks and people see the lines to get (their) cash out, that's real hysterical behavior."
Stocks end Thursday higher, riding a late-day rally with oil prices hovering near $100 a barrel and market scuttlebutt pointing to a resolution for Lehman Brothers within days. The Dow jumps 164.79, or 1.5 percent, to close at 11433.71. The S&P gains 1.4 percent and the Nasdaq rises 1.3 percent.
Some market pros, including Doug Kass, founder of Seabreeze Partners Management, suggest that the late rally is due to a report that Lehman had actual interest from suitors, including Bank of America -- although the collossus is already saddled with its acquisition of Countrywide Financial.
BofA shares reverse course, finishing up 2 percent. AIG squeaks in with a 0.3-percent gain; and Washington Mutual shares surge 22 percent to close at $2.83. Earlier, the stock sank below $2 for the first time since 1990.
What the Experts Were Saying:
Dick Bove, financial strategist at Rochdale Securities, explains Lehman's "credibility gap": why investors don't seem to believe its financial statements.
Richard LeFrak of The LeFrak Organization and Peter Cohen of Ramius offer their takes on where financials are going. Plus: LeFrak outlines his unusual and "politically incorrect" housing-market solution.
Mad Money's Jim Cramer talks up WaMu, Wells Fargo and the "other financials" that "everyone's ignoring."