TOPICS > Economy

Wild Week on Wall Street Ends on a Calm Note

August 12, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: For investors and traders alike, today brought a welcome end to a series of nerve-jangling sessions. There were no rumors, no bouts of panic selling, and no dizzying dives followed by sharp surges. Instead, Wall Street managed a relatively calm advance, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 125 points.

When the closing bell finally rang this afternoon at the New York Stock Exchange, it capped one of the market’s wildest spells since the meltdown of 2008.

MAN: Put the order out. He’s going to send more later.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Starting last Monday, a track of the Dow Jones
Industrial Average resembled the seismic plot of an earthquake. A key volatility index found, over the past two weeks, swings in the Dow averaged 15 percent a day. The norm is one percent.

Today’s week-ending rally came on word of improving retail sales in July. They were up by the most in four months, with consumers spending more on cars, gasoline and furniture. That pushed the Dow up more than 125 points to close at 11,269. The Nasdaq also gained ground, up 15 points to close at nearly 2,508.

MAN: Needless to say, we are exhausted. It’s been a tiring week with all the major swings up and down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Around the world, the week’s record-setting swings also kept traders and investors on their toes, and glued to trading screens in exchanges in city after city.

But European markets, like Wall Street, finished Friday with gains, with many rounding out the day sharply higher. French markets had to contend with the announcement that economic growth in France was flat for the second quarter. The finance minister took to the airwaves to reassure investors.

FRANCOIS BAROIN, French finance minister (through translator): I am very confident. I am confident because we have strong fundamental drivers in our economy. Why strong? Because our economy is diversified, because we have a banking system which is one of the most resistant in the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The French government also shored up its banking system by announcing a 15-day ban on short selling. Several other European countries also moved to stop speculators betting against bank stocks.

And, in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Cabinet met in emergency session and approved new balanced budget measures. It was their latest effort to calm concerns over Italy’s public finances.