Markets Volatile As Fed Makes Announcement Domestic and foreign markets are still reacting to Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. debt. And now states and cities are seeing their risk assessments lowered.

Markets Volatile As Fed Makes Announcement

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


NORRIS: It was another volatile day for the financial markets. In the end, the Dow was up. It gained over 400 points. NPR's Yuki Noguchi spent the day checking in with traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

YUKI NOGUCHI: The stock market is a lot like sports. It has its stats, it has its rules, its lingo, and it has its commentators, like Jonathan Corpina.

JONATHAN CORPINA: After we have a downturn in the market, I think investors always wait and look for that bounce.

NOGUCHI: It's around 10:20 a.m., and Corpina, a trader at Meridian Equity, is liking the market's plays. Corpina's work environment includes banks of computer screens, lots of flashing green and red to indicate buy and sell orders. Making sense of the stats and then being able to fast-talk his way through them is just part of staying on top of the game.

CORPINA: We're at 400 million shares so far today. That's a pretty good number, considering, you know, we're almost 50 minutes into the trading day. That's - I'm happy to see that volume. If the volume was any lighter, I would think that it wouldn't be able to support the rally that we've seen so far.

NOGUCHI: On the same trading floor, Arthur Cashin is director of floor operations for UBS Financial Services, which makes him a bit like John Madden. He brings 50 years of experience and a lot of been-there-done-that perspective to the floor. Early in the day, Cashin cautioned against setting expectations too high. Fortunes aren't made on market spasms.

ARTHUR CASHIN: People are very cautious. They're nervous. We've done a lot of damage. Over 11 sessions, we're down about 17 percent.

NOGUCHI: At lunchtime, I caught up with both Cashin and Corpina over the phone, and it felt a bit like a 7th inning stretch as investors waited for an afternoon announcement from the Federal Reserve, the big trading event of the day. Cashin said it was a rare period of calm and stability.

CASHIN: The markets kind of go into almost sleep mode here as they await for the 2:15 announcement from the Fed.

NOGUCHI: Even the fast-talking Corpina seemed to slow down a bit. Facing an enduring jobs and housing problem in the economy is a little like trying to emerge from several losing seasons. This is not the playoffs.

CORPINA: I'm very cautious. Yes, I like seeing all the green on my screen today as opposed to all the red. I'm not convinced yet. I'll have a little bit more conviction once we hear from the Fed and we hear - if we hear anything that has any substance to it.

NOGUCHI: Substance, to Corpina, meant another big move to buy Treasuries or anything that might give some lift to the economy. Forget whether those measures will work, Corpina says. The markets want to see it. And without that, his call was that there would be another huge sell off by the end of the day.

NORRIS: 15, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee released its report. It would keep its interest rates at near zero through mid-2013. Initially, that sounded good. Markets jumped. Then within 25 minutes, the Dow lost 300 points. Things returned to their frenetic pace for trader Jonathan Corpina.


CORPINA: Hey. Jon's a little busy right now. Can you call back?

NOGUCHI: I had better luck reaching Arthur Cashin, who said, essentially, I told you so.

CASHIN: Markets started to rally. And when everybody looked at what was in the report, they realized they were looking for a chocolate cake, and all they got was a peanut butter sandwich.

NOGUCHI: Indeed, within an hour, the Dow was back up in positive territory.

CASHIN: Even as we're talking, the market went from down 100 to up 10. So it's very, very volatile. I think the market's going to keep zigging and zagging and retesting as they try to sort through this.

NOGUCHI: By the end of trading, the Dow closed up four percent. Overnight, Cashin says he'll monitor what happens in Europe, the rioting in London or any new developments in troubled debt markets there.

CASHIN: Tomorrow, we have everything starting all over again.

NOGUCHI: Come 5 A.m., he says, I can find him back in his office. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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