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Stocks Idle Amid Focus on Auto Hearings

Stocks opened mixed Tuesday as a pop in commodities and sharp drop in consumer prices briefly offset worries that Congress won't bail out auto makers.

About a half hour before the opening bell, there was buzz in the market that there may be some foreign interest in gold, which boosted commodities. The dollar declined.

But the market was preoccupied with the auto bailout hearings on Capitol Hill, which resumed today at 10 a.m. ET.

>> Watch CNBC's live-streaming video of the hearings.

"The uncertainty around the auto makers is weighing heavy" on the market, Tim Mole, head of CFD's at SVS Securities, told CNBC. It's a "gauging point of the U.S. economy," he added.

Executives from the auto makers warned Congress that the industry was on the brink of collapse as they called for a $25 billion aid package on Tuesday.

The House Financial Services Committee gets its chance to grill the heads of the Big Three auto-makersduring today's hearing.

Shares of both General Motors and Ford dropped more than 10 percent. In the past 12 months, GM shares have lost more than 90 percent of their value and Ford is down more than 80 percent.

On Tuesday, auto makers warned that the industry was on the brink of disasterin their plea for a $25 billion aid package.

"This is about much more than just Detroit," GM CEO Rick Wagoner said in his testimony. "It's about saving the U.S. economy from a catastrophic collapse."

>> Poll: What will happen to the market if auto makers don't get a bailout? Vote now.

Meanwhile President-elect Barack Obama came under pressure from chief executives of leading U.S. companies to implement a fiscal stimulus package and name his economic team.

One of the bailout recipients, American International Group, will pay roughly $3 million to several executives under deferred compensation plans that are being terminated, according to a regulatory filing. The insurer halted plans last week to pay $503 million in deferred compensation.

In economic news, consumer prices fell 1 percentin October, the biggest drop since 1947. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, core CPI slipped 0.1 percent. Both gauges fell more than expected.

Meanwhile, housing starts came in worse than expected, falling 4.5 percentto a record 791,000 annual rate. It was the lowest reading since the measure was created in the late 1940s. An earlier report showed mortgage applications fell to their lowest level in nearly eight yearslast week.

U.S. oil inventory data is due to be released at 10:35 am.

On the earnings front, BJ's Wholesale will report earnings numbers before the bell.

This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Weeklyi oil inventories; Fed minutes; Fed's Kohn speaks; Earnings from BJ's Wholesale
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims; leading indicators; Philly Fed manufacturing survey; natural gas inventories; Fed's Bullard speaks; Earnings from Gamestop, Dell and Gap
FRIDAY: Fed's Plosser speaks; Earnings from Heinz

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.