Stocks surge on talk of Geithner nomination

NEW YORK — Wall Street staged a comeback Friday, with the major indexes jumping more than 5 percent and the Dow Jones industrials surging nearly 500 points.

The late afternoon rally ended another volatile week that saw stocks reach six-year lows.

Stocks erased about half of the steep losses from Wednesday and Thursday, as investors got an unexpected jolt of confidence following an NBC News report that President-elect Barack Obama plans to name New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary.

Investors have been looking for a clear message from Obama on who will lead his economic brain trust at a time when the country is facing its biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. In addition, some on Wall Street have grown frustrated with outgoing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson over his handling of the government's effort to rescue the banking system.

"Something needed to be done on the economy," said Ben Halliburton, chief investment officer at Tradition Capital Management. "The fact that they've got the team together, maybe that is going to shorten the period of indecision."

A senior Democratic official familiar with the deliberations confirmed to The Associated Press that Geithner is likely to be named as Treasury secretary. The official requested anonymity because the nomination hasn't been formally announced.

The advance in stocks also came as the FDIC said it would guarantee up to $1.4 trillion in U.S. banks' debt for more than three years as part of the government's financial rescue plan. The directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted Friday to approve the plan, which is meant to break the crippling logjam in bank-to-bank lending.

Stocks fluctuated throughout most of trading Friday, as fresh concerns over the stability of the financial sector prevented the market from establishing any sustainable gains. But stocks moved sharply higher in the final half hour after the report on Geithner.

With the steep pullbacks earlier this week, the Dow began Friday's session down 43.1 percent this year, while the S&P 500 index — a benchmark for the overall U.S. stock market — was down 48.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite index had lost 50.4 percent this year.

And despite Friday's gains, stocks are still down sharply for the week. The Dow has lost 5.31 percent, while the S&P 500 fell 8.39 percent and the Nasdaq lost 8.74 percent. Paper losses for the week in U.S. stocks came to $1 trillion, according to the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index, which reflects nearly all stocks traded in America.

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