Stocks began the week with an ugly roar and ended with a whimper, ushering out a down week and echoing a tumultuous quarter.

Equities opened the week in a frenzy. Monday morning's report of an unexpectedly large drop in home sales caused the market to stumble broadly, with the Dow tumbling over 100 points. By the time the trading session closed, stocks had recovered to finish nearly unchanged.

On Tuesday, still more disappointing housing data and a weak reading on consumer confidence brought the indices lower by approximately 0.6%. The situation worsened on Wednesday. With a soft durable goods reading and higher oil prices caused by escalating tension with Iran, Fed Chief Bernanke's annual testimony to Congress further dulled the market's mood by dampening hopes for an imminent Fed rate cut. Stocks fell across the board, with the Dow dropping over 96 points.

Volatile trading marked Thursday's session in which stocks advanced after optimism over strong economic growth and merger news competed with higher oil prices and weak tech stocks for investors' attention. On Friday, choppy trading again ensued amid strong economic reports that cheered Wall Street, while fears of a potential trade war with China dampened spirits. Stocks closed the session narrowly mixed. 

Economic data scheduled for release includes the ISM manufacturing index today, auto sales tomorrow, factory orders and the ISM non-manufacturing index on Wednesday, and the all-important March employment data on Friday. Markets will be closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday.

Corporations reporting earnings include Smith & Wollensky today, Best Buy, Circuit City, and Monsanto on Wednesday, and Constellation Brands on Thursday.

Stay market-tuned and Foolish!

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Foolish Quiz

1. This index had the largest percentage gain in March:

(a) the Dow
(b) the Nasdaq
(c) the S&P 500

2. This index had the largest percentage gain for the first quarter:

(a) the Dow
(b) the Nasdaq
(c) the S&P 500

3. The shares of which company performed better on Friday: Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) or Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN)?

4. Citigroup (NYSE:C) announced the following:

(a) a substantial job reduction
(b) a bid for ABN Amro (NYSE:ABN)
(c) an interest in German banks

5. Which company reported a larger quarterly profit: GameStop or Tiffany?

6. In which auto company is private equity group Cerberus Capital investing:

(a) DaimlerChrysler
(b) General Motors
(c) Tower Automotive
(e) all of the above  

7. True or false: News that U.S. Steel agreed to purchase Lone Star Technologies sent shares of both companies higher.

8. Which company reported weaker earnings: Beazer Homes or Lennar?

9. The ticker symbol "M" will soon stand for:

(a) Macy's
(b) March Madness
(c) McDonald's
(d) Microsoft

10. True or false: The Fool has acquired Tribune.  

1. (c). The S&P 500's 1% advance nudged out the Dow's 0.7% increase to claim first place for March. The Nasdaq rose 0.2%.

2. (b). Techs won the quarterly contest, with the Nasdaq gaining 0.3%, while the S&P 500 rose 0.2% and the Dow lost 0.8%.

3. Dendreon. Shares of the biotech rose a whopping 147.7% on Friday, following the FDA's finding announced the day before that the company's experimental prostate drug was safe and effective. If only a drug could cure Dell's ills -- shares slipped 0.8% after the computer maker announced that it has uncovered evidence of misconduct and accounting errors and will delay its annual report.

4. (a), (c). Monday brought unconfirmed news that Citigroup plans to slash 15,000 jobs at a $1 billion price tag. The bank will, however, try to earn some bucks by serving as a strategic advisor to Barclays in its potential bid for ABN Amro. Citibank had also been thought to be a possible suitor, but now apparently prefers German banks according to remarks made Friday by a top exec.

5. GameStop. Video game sales beat out diamonds as GameStop reported a 53% jump in fourth-quarter income on Tuesday and shares rose 11%. On Monday, Tiffany reported nearly flat fourth-quarter earnings, blamed on flat Japanese sales, higher commodities costs, and an impairment charge despite growth in same-store sales. Shares closed higher by 0.3%.

6. (b), (c). Private equity seems to have revved its engines in a lovefest over Detroit. Cerberus agreed on Wednesday to purchase most of the assets of Tower Automotive for approximately $1 billion. The firm already owns a 51% stake in GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors and may make a bid for Chrysler.

7. True. Shares of U.S. Steel forged a 3.7% rise, while those of Lone Star Technologies lassoed a 36.4% gain, following news on Thursday that U.S. Steel would acquire the maker of oilfield tubing products for $2.1 billion. The transaction is expected to close later this year and will result in becoming North America's largest tubular producer.

8. Lennar. On Tuesday, the homebuilder reported a 73% plunge in first-quarter profits and slashed its full-year outlook, but shares slipped only 0.1%. Fellow homebuilder Beazer probably wishes that its bad news involved earnings instead of its announcement made Wednesday that a federal criminal probe has commenced into its lending operations. Shares fell 8.4%.

9. (a). In one of the most highly charged contests on Wall Street, Macy's (the upcoming name for Federated Department Stores) has snagged the "M" ticker symbol for trading on the Big Board, long thought to have been reserved for Mr. Softee if it ever jumped ship from Nasdaq. Single-letter symbols still up for grabs are G, I, J, L, N, P, U, V, W, and Z. 

10. April Fool! Tribune had set a self-imposed deadline of March 31 for its decision regarding competing buyout orders from Sam Zell or Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, but by Sunday evening, no official word had emerged. Stay with the Fool to keep you posted -- this time, we're not joking. 


  • 8-10 correct: Foolishly impressive.
  • 6-7 correct: Almost Foolish.
  • 1-5 correct: OK, but just barely.
  • 0 correct: Really?! Keep reading the Fool and watch your scores improve!

Microsoft and Dell are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Dell, Best Buy, and GameStop are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Whatever your investing style, the Fool has a newsletter for you.

Fool contributor S.J. Caplan, is a former vice president and assistant general counsel of Goldman Sachs and former vice president and derivative finance specialist at Lehman Brothers. She serves as an arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD. The Fool has a disclosure policy.