Trading was volatile Friday as an encouraging jobs report fell to the back burner and the market remained jittery after Thursday's nauseating freefall.
The Dow was down more than 50 points in afternoon trading, after swinging between positive and negative territory in the morning. The CBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, topped 40 at one point, nearly double of where it ended last week.
At this rate, the Dow is on track for its worst weekly decline since March 2009.
Oil dropped below $75, while gold hovered near $1,200as investors flocked to it as a safe-haven play amid the market madness.
Despite an encouraging sign on the jobs front — nonfarm payrolls jumped by 290,000 in April, the fastest pace in four years — investors unwound their recovery plays, selling off technology, industrial and consumer-discretionary stocks.
Selling in techs accelerated following news that Nokia is suing Apple over patent infringements.
Financials had started the day higher but swung along with the market as investors tried to make sense of what happened and what it means going forward.
The market had been plodding along Thursday, worried about Greece and the spread of the European debt crisis. But as market pros were debating if this was the beginning of a correction, the riots in Greece exploded on live television and the bottom fell out of the market. Stocks went into a freefall, with the Dow down as much as 998.50 at one point, before recovering to end down just 350 points.
It's times like this that separate the men from the boys on Wall Street and market veteran Art Hogan of Jefferies said he sees a buying opportunity.
"Last week, if you look at the 50-day moving average of the S&P — 93% of companies were trading above their 50-day moving average. But coming in this morning, that's only 28%. In the last June/July selloff, that bottomed out at 25%, so we’re getting a very strong buy signalin valuations and the multiples are very, very attractive," Hogan said on CNBC this morning.
Investigators still don't know exactly what happened but there are suspicions about some "unusual trading activity," including the fact that a trader at a major firm — thought to be Citigroup — may have mistyped a trade as billioninstead of million, triggering all kinds of computerized trades that are programmed to sell when a stock hits a certain level. Some say the selloff was exacerbated by high-frequency, algorithmic trading.
Among the stocks that showed highly unusual trading in Thursday's selloff were Procter and Gamble, Accenture, 3M and Altria (Philip Morris) .
There are systems in place to slow — and even halt — trading when selloffs accelerate too fast on the New York Stock Exchange but as those slowdowns began, traders took advantage of the global trading system and went to other exchanges to place their orders.
The NYSE and Nasdaq engaged in a high-stakes blame game on CNBC this morning.
"Our systems function flawlessly," said Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld, citing the fact that Nasdaq-listed stocks Microsoft, Intel and Cisco had modest drops, while NYSE stocks like P&G and Accenture fell off the rails.
"We provided continuous market support for that period of time. The stocks over the NYSE did not enjoy that luxury," Greifeld said. The NYSE "basically walked away from the stock.
Well-known investor Jim Rogers piled on: "Somebody should hang this New York Stock Exchange!" Rogers said. "They claim to be the center of the world's capitalism, of the world's financial markets, you would think that in 2010 they could sort out simple things like electronics."
NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer shot back that the cause of Thursday’s market meltdown was electronic trading, not a “fat finger” — the term some are using to describe a possible trader typo that placed a trade for "billions" instead of "millions."
“Let’s stop the fingerpointing and move the ball forward," Niederauer said. "We’re not walking away from this but let’s be constructive.”
The Nasdaq made public the list of trades cancelled because of the glitch.
And a congressional panel will probe Thursday's stunning selloff at a hearing next Tuesday.
Goldman Sachs shares rose amid a lively annual shareholder meeting: While CEO Lloyd Blankfein vowed to conduct a "comprehensive review of all of our business practices," shareholders gave him a flogging.
"Goldman Sachs has become a nest of nepotism," said famous shareholder-meeting character Evelyn Davies, berating Blankfein for hiring his two sons.
"If Hank [Paulson] had been here this would never have happened!" she charged.
"Lloyd, I demand you step down by Monday or I will have board remove you!" she said.
Alcoa was at the top of the Dow pack after BMO Capital upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "market perform."