NEW YORK — The stock market’s wild ride may not be over yet.
The Dow Jones industrials whipsawed again Friday, a day after their largest one-day plunge. The average was down as much as 279 points in the morning, went briefly into the black around lunchtime, then ended with a loss of 139.
Not quite as terrifying as the brief 1,000-day plunge the day before, but still extraordinarily volatile. It’s normal for markets to trade erratically a day after such a disruptive move, but analysts are divided over whether stocks are in the process of finding a bottom or whether too many investors are too spooked to get back in.
“It’s a pile of uncertainty … We don’t have any more clarity than we did yesterday,” said Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies &Co. in Boston. “We’re going to have investors who are less inclined to be in this marketplace until we get some clarity.”
Traders were still anxious amid lingering questions about what caused Thursday’s sudden drop. Several possibilities were being investigated but as of late Friday no clear explanation had emerged.
Investors looked past a surprisingly strong report on the U.S. jobs market and focused instead on the latest moves in Europe’s spreading debt crisis. Their concerns have fed a wave of turbulence over the past two weeks, including four straight days of selling this week, and helped trigger Thursday’s drop.
Technology stocks were particularly hard hit following reports that Nokia Corp. was broadening its legal fight against rival cell phone maker Apple Inc. to include the iPad, Apple’s new hit product. Apple shares fell 4.2 percent in heavy trading.
The concerns about Europe’s debt crisis go far beyond Greece, the smallest economy in the European Union. A further loss of confidence in European government debt could have an impact on other weak countries like Portugal, potentially requiring another difficult bailout process.
Germany’s parliament approved Berlin’s share of the rescue package after a boisterous debate, but investors still fear that Greece may not make a May 19 deadline to make a debt repayment. That could cause ripple effects throughout the global financial system and further undermine Europe’s shared currency, the euro. “You’re not concerned about the kid with the cold, but how he spreads it to the rest of the class,” said Len Blum, a managing partner at investment bank Westwood Capital. Blum noted that Greece’s debt problem could be similar to the subprime mortgage meltdown in the U.S., which quickly spread to other parts of the financial system.
The Dow closed down 139.89 at 10,380.43. The Standard &Poor’s 500 index fell 17.27 to 1,110.88, while the Nasdaq composite fell 54 to 2,265.64.
Falling stocks outpaced gainers two-to-one on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume was very heavy at 9.5 billion shares, compared with 10.4 billion on Thursday.
Friday’s trading left the Dow down 5.7 percent for the week and erased its gains for the year. The S&P fell about 6.4 percent, while the Nasdaq was off 7.9 percent for the week. The S&P and Nasdaq also went into the red for 2010.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller firms was off 8.9 percent for the week, and the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index fell 834.93, or 6.8 percent, to 11,444.25.