4 Mar 2009

Index falls below 700

11:58 am on 4 March 2009

Stocks in the United States fell again on Tuesday, with the S&P index ending below the psychological level of 700 for the first time since October 1996.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke earlier left the door open to whether banks will need more money.

He told the Senate Budget Committee the size of a $US700 billion bank-rescue package would depend on bank "stress tests" being conducted by regulators and the economy's direction.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37.27 points, or 0.55%, to 6,726.02.

Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 4.49 points, or 0.64%, to 696.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 1.84 points, or 0.14%, to 1,321.01.

The S&P is down nearly 23% this year to date and has fallen by more than 55% since October 2007.

Trading was active on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.90 billion shares changing hands - above last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion.

About 2.44 billion shares were traded on the Nasdaq - above last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.