The Dow Jones industrial average, the Nasdaq Composite, and the S&P 500 closed down again, ending another volatile week as investors tried to figure out where the economy will go from here.
Investor Warren Buffett said in a New York Times opinion piece published Friday that he believes it's a good time to buy American stocks. He predicted record profits from big U.S. companies five, 10, and 20 years from now.
There is no doubt, with a stream of disappointing economic reports released during the week, that the U.S. economy is struggling, but what is unclear is how deep and long the pain will be.
"Let me be clear on one point: I can't predict the short-term movements of the stock market," Buffett wrote in the Times. "I haven't the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month -- or a year -- from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over."
He pointed to the Great Depression to show that stocks could hit bottom long before the broader economy recovers. He said that "bad news is an investor's best friend. It lets you buy a slice of America's future at a marked-down price."
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that housing starts fell 6% in September, more than analysts had forecast. Several companies, including Google, released reassuringly strong earnings reports, but many companies are scaling back forecasts despite recent success.
Google shares rose $19.52, or 5.53%, to close at $372.54, after announcing third-quarter profits rose by 26%.
Amazon.com and eBay shares rose, with Amazon closing at $50.65, up 0.72%, while eBay closed at $15.35 per share, up 2.54%.
Still, bad news seemed to outweigh the good.
Apple shares fell 4.41%, or $4.49, to close at $97.40. Microsoft fell 1.07% to close at $23.93. Yahoo closed down 0.69% at $12.90 per share.
A Reuters/University of Michigan Survey reported a steep drop in its consumer confidence index. From September to October, confidence fell from 70.3 to 57.5, the steepest one-month decline yet.
President George W. Bush spoke again Friday in his latest attempt to soothe Americans and reassure them that the government rescue package will eventually produce results.
The Dow fell by 1.41%, or 127.04 points, to 8,852.22, slightly higher than it began the week. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fared better, dropping just 0.34%, or 6.42 points, to close at 1,711.29. The S&P 500 closed down 0.62%, or 5.88 points, at 940.55.
Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Yahoo are due to report their earnings next week.