Any chance of US markets enjoying a rally this week were torpedoed by warnings about weaker US growth and a sweeping indictment of the world’s largest banks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the five days down close to 1 percent, after slumping heavily on Thursday amid a gloomier outlook from the US Federal Reserve and Moody’s downgrades of 15 of the world’s largest banks.
The Dow was down 251 points on Thursday after the US central bank sharply revised down this year’s growth projections to between 1.9 percent and 2.4 percent, a half-percentage point cut.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned of slower progress in reducing unemployment and of spillovers from Europe’s economic crisis.
Markets shrugged as the Fed announced a moderate renewal of its Twist stimulus program of bond swaps, which are designed to lower long-term interest rates.
The central bank will continue to switch short-term US bonds for those dated between six and 30 years. In total, the program will be worth around US$267 billion.
Sentiment was also rocked on Thursday ahead of the widely expected Moody’s downgrade of the credit ratings of 15 major global financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Citigroup, HSBC and Deutsche Bank.
“All of the banks affected by today’s actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities,” Moody’s global banking manager Greg Bauer said.
Goldman Sachs ended the week down 2.1 percent, while Citi and Morgan Stanley were down 1.1 percent.
There was little else to cheer about.
“Data results this past week were generally unwelcome,” IHS Global Insight economists Paul Edelstein and Nigel Gault said. “Single-family housing starts and permits increased in May, but existing home sales fell thanks to a drop in investor purchases.”
“Initial unemployment claims retreated, but the four-week moving average still rose to a six-month high,” they said.
One of the few bright spots came on the NASDAQ, which rose 0.7 percent for the week.
It was propped up by Microsoft stock, which rose 2.3 percent during a week in which the firm released its “Surface” tablet.
The S&P 500 fell 0.6 percent for the week.