Wall Street received the interest rate cut it wanted, but still turned in a baffling late-day performance, shooting higher and then skidding lower in the very last minutes of trading as some investors rushed to cash in profits after the market's big advance.
Analysts were divided over why the market turned around so abruptly, with some citing reports of a lackluster profit forecast at General Electric Co. and others contending investors were simply looking to cash in gains after the Federal Reserve's decision to lower its fed funds rate by a half-point to 1 percent.
"It was a panic sell in the last two minutes," said Dave Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Canaccord Adams in New York, referring to the GE news.
The Dow Jones industrials were up nearly 280 points in the last quarter hour of the session, giving them a two-day gain of more than 1,160 points, when another bout of last-hour volatility wiped out the advance.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow ended down 74.16, or 0.82 percent, at 8,990.96.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The S&P 500 index fell 10.42, or 1.11 percent, to 930.09, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 7.74, or 0.47 percent, to 1,657.21.
Advancers outnumbered decliners by about 2 to 1 on moderate volume of 1.62 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange.