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While you were sleeping: BusinessWire overnight wrap

Tuesday 19th August 2008

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Renewed concern about the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest US home loan providers, sent a chill through Wall Street on Monday, leaving all three benchmark indexes down about 1.5%.

The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 180.51 points, or 1.55%, to 11,479.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 19.60 points, or 1.51%, to 1,278.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 35.54 points, or 1.45%, to 2,416.98.

For the Dow and the S&P, Monday was the worst day since August 7, while the Nasdaq chalked up its biggest daily decline since July 28.

The Standard & Poor's Financial Index was down 3.6%, reversing two consecutive sessions of gains.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae slumped to the lowest levels in almost two decades, losing more than 22%, after Barron's said shareholders of the biggest US home-loan financiers would be wiped out in a Treasury rescue.

Citigroup's Tobias Levkovich cut his year-end forecast for the S&P 500 by 4.8% to 1,475, citing the "unsettled credit environment".

"Credit conditions have gotten worse," Levkovich, Citigroup's chief US equity strategist, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. "That's not good for industrial activity. It's not good for capital spending."

In other financial news, shares of Lehman Brothers fell 7% after the Wall Street Journal reported analysts were bracing for the investment bank to report a third-quarter loss of at least $US1.8 billion.

Cocoa transport

Losses extended beyond the financial sector too. Hershey dropped $US3.91, or 9.4%, to $US37.71. The nation's largest chocolate maker boosted US prices by an average 10% to help counter rising cocoa, packaging, energy and shipping expenses.

SanDisk Corp. slumped 10%, the most since July 22, to $US15.84. Investors should sell the biggest maker of memory cards for digital cameras following their 15% gain this month, Citigroup analysts said.

While the stock market slumped, gold rebounded and in turn the US dollar eased.

Gold futures for December delivery rose $US13.60, or 1.7%, to $US805.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold's decline last week was the biggest for a most-active contract since February 25, 1983. The price has fallen 22% from a record $US1,033.90 reached on March 17.

In the next three weeks, a drop in the price to $US772 would attract buyers and a rally to $US836 would trigger selling, analysts at Paris-based Societe Generale said in a report today.

Dollar weakens

The US dollar dropped 0.1% to $US1.4702 per euro at 4:09 pm in New York, from $US1.4687 on August 15. It touched $US1.4647 today, the strongest level since February 20, compared with the all- time low of $US1.6038 set July 15.

The dollar declined 0.5% to 109.99 yen, from 110.53 on August 15, when it reached 110.66, the strongest level since January 2. The euro decreased 0.4% to 161.70 yen, from 162.30.

The greenback fell 0.2% to 86.79 US cents per Australian dollar, the biggest decline in four weeks. It dropped 0.5% to 70.97 cents per New Zealand dollar.

Benchmark 10-year US Treasuries traded 9/32 higher in price for a yield of 3.82% - the lowest since July 16 - from 3.85% late on Friday. Two-year notes were 3/32 higher for a yield of 2.35%, down from 2.40%. Bond yields move inversely to their prices.

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