Stocks declined slightly at open, as big buybacks from Microsoft, HP, and Nike were offset by general financial sector pessimism. The Dow dropped 85 points at the bell, while the S&P fell 0.5% and Nasdaq dropped 0.6%. Microsoft rose 4.9%, after announcing a $40-billion buyback and 18% dividend boost, while Morgan Stanley rose 14% on news that Mitsubishi would buy up to 20% of the firm.
The news that both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are abandoning the independent brokerage model to become full-fledged banks, backed by deposits, sent Goldman up 3%. Though the Treasury’s $700-billion bailout plan has, in the words of one analyst, “put a floor under the equity markets,” uncertainty remained about how much the government would pay for firms’ troubled assets.