Fear that government may resort to bank nationalization weighed heavily on bank stocks for most of Friday.
The KBW Bank Index shed as much as 10.3% early in the afternoon after Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd said it may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some U.S. banks, according to a Bloomberg report.
The index rebounded, to close down 0.6%, after new reports of assurances by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs that the Obama administration prefers to keep banks privatized. The index fell 16.9% for the week.
The broader markets also fell Friday on bank nationalization concerns, though they too picked up after the reports of the White House announcement. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.34% and the Standard & Poor's 500 closed down 1.14%.
Peter McCorry, a senior trader at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., said nationalization talk continues to spook investors. "Investors don't want to own another Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae going into the weekend, so they are voting with their feet," Mr. McCorry said.
Isaac Baker, a Treasury Department spokesman, said Friday: "There are a lot of rumors in the market, as always, but you should not regard these as any indication of the policy of this administration. Mr. Baker said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's goal is to "preserve a financial system that is owned and managed by the private sector."
Two of the companies mentioned most in news reports of nationalization rumors are Bank of America Corp., which fell 14 cents, to $3.79, and Citigroup Inc., which fell 56 cents, to $1.95. B of A had dipped as low as $2.53 Friday, and Citi fell to $1.61 at one point.
Kenneth D. Lewis, B of A's chairman, chief executive, and president, said Friday: "Our company continues to be profitable. We see no reason why a company that is profitable with strong levels of capital and liquidity and that continues to lend actively should be considered for nationalization."
Citi spokeswoman Shannon Bell said in an interview Friday that the New York company's capital base is "very strong"; its Tier 1 ratio was 11.9% at Dec. 31. "We continue to focus and make progress on reducing the assets on our balance sheet, reducing expenses, and streamlining our business for future profitable growth," Ms. Bell said.
Other decliners included JPMorgan Chase & Co., 3.4%; Wells Fargo & Co., 9.2%; and U.S. Bancorp, 2.8%.