Stocks edged between small gains and losses Friday afternoon as traders scrutinized a plan to contain Europe’s debt crisis that sent the market soaring a day earlier.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,202 shortly before noon. The Dow surged 339 points the day before, its biggest gain since Aug. 11. The Dow is headed for its biggest monthly gain since 1987.
Investors were reacting Thursday to a plan unveiled by European leaders that aims to defuse the Greek debt crisis and prevent it from spreading. They agreed to expand a regional bailout fund and will force banks to keep bigger cash buffers to protect against future losses. Banks agreed to forgive half of Greece’s debt.
Markets drifted lower in Europe and the U.S. Friday. Many details of the plan to tame the debt crisis have yet to be worked out, including how the financial rescue fund will work. The euro fell against the dollar, and oil prices declined. In another troubling sign, borrowing costs for Italy and Spain increased, signaling that traders remain worried about its finances.
“We need to remember … that Europe still faces major structural problems. One of the most significant is that most European countries are either entering a recession or already in one, with varying degrees of severity,” Jerry Webman, chief economist of Oppenheimer Funds, wrote in a note to clients.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,282. The Nasdaq composite index slipped 7, or 0.3 percent, to 2,731.
Enthusiasm over Europe’s latest plan to control its debt crisis propelled the Dow and S&P up 3 percent Thursday. The Dow is up 11.8 percent this month, the S&P 13.3 percent. Both indexes are on pace to have their best month since January 1987.
In less than four weeks, the Dow has risen 14.6 percent from its 2011 low, reached on Oct. 3. The S&P has gained 16.9 percent in that time. However, the Dow remains 4.7 percent below this year’s high, reached on April 29. The S&P is 5.8 percent below its high.
Whirlpool Corp. slumped 12 percent, the most in the index, after the appliance maker said it would cut 5,000 jobs, citing weak demand and higher costs for materials. Another household name, Newell Rubbermaid Inc., soared 12 percent after its adjusted earnings beat Wall Street’s expectations. The maker of tubs and markers maintained its outlook for the year.
Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision Systems Corp. fell 14 percent, the most in the S&P 500, after reporting that its third-quarter net income dropped sharply and it lost video subscribers.
Thursday’s stock rally led to a sell-off in Treasurys, which traders hold to protect their money when other investments are falling. Demand for Treasurys increased Friday, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury down to 2.31 percent from 2.39 percent late Thursday.
Markets have been roiled for months by fears about the impact of Europe’s debt crisis. Greece couldn’t afford to repay its lenders, and banks holding Greek bonds faced billions in losses. A disorganized default by Greece threatened to spook lenders to other countries with heavy debt loads such as Spain and Italy. Traders feared that a wave of defaults by countries would cause financial panic and mire the global economy.
Some analysts said Thursday’s rally marked a turning point. They expect traders to focus on U.S. economic news after monitoring Europe for months. The government releases its jobs report for October next Friday. A news conference from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will offer clues about the Fed’s economic outlook. Key reports on manufacturing and business sentiment are due out as well.