Friday: General Electric* said it'll slash its quarterly dividend 68 percent, to 10 cents from 31 cents per share, beginning in the third quarter. The move is expected to save the mega-conglomerate $9 billion annually. The U.S. agreed to boost its stake in Citigroup to as much as 36 percent, giving the government far more control of the ailing banking giant. U.S. GDP data was sharply revised downward, with economic loss at 6.2 percent as consumers cut spending by the most in over 28 years. Experts told CNBC that the market is resisting scary talk from President Obama and Fed Chairman Bernanke — but the recession's end is nowhere in sight.
Sign of the Times: A Great Big "???"
Frederic Dickson of D. A. Davidson & Co. said huge questions remain about the Obama administration's budget proposal, e.g., will it cap growth potential for businesses? He says it's likely to be a drag on the markets — at least until there is some clarification.
The Economic Cycle Research Institute's Lakshman Achuthan said figures can be made to say anything you want them to say, but here's the reality: there is no end in sight to this profound recession.
Lots of Downward Pressure, But Market Holds its Own
Ben Lichtenstein of Traders Audio said speeches by President Obama have been a downward force on the market this week, as have most data releases, and Fed Chairman Bernanke's testimony was not especially encouraging. But the market has been rather resilient. 750 was an important level in the S&P 500; once it was breached to the downside Friday, the next key S&P support level will be in the 730s.
Options Action: The Duality of Health-Care Insurers
Rebecca Darst of NYSE Euronext said things get interesting in options trading when volatility varies between individual stocks within a specific sector. She saw that yesterday with Aetna and Cigna, parts of the heavily-pressured health-care insurance sector. Aetna options hit a 52-week high in volume, dominated by calls. In Cigna, which also traded lower yesterday, puts were out-trading calls by about eight to one.
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