The Dow eked out a gain Tuesday but trading was light and choppy following Monday's rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 20.03, or 0.2 percent, to close at 10,246.97, its highest close since October 2008, and fifth straight gain. This came after the Dow chalked up its second 200-plus gain in three sessions on Monday.
The S&P 500 finished flat and the Nasdaq shed 0.1 percent.
Health-care, utilities and materials were the best-performing sectors.
Bank of America was the top gainer on the Dow, up 1.7 percent, after some reassuring words from embattled CEO Ken Lewis.
American Express gained after the company said credit-card spending rose in October from September.
But financials struggled after MBIA reported another hefty loss — this one clocked in at $727.8 million, or $3.50 a share — amid mounting writedowns. MBIA shares tumbled 27 percent.
Techs showed some strength as chips advanced and Priceline shot up 18 percent after the travel-booking Web site crushed earnings expectations due to an "exceptionally strong" summer-travel season.
There were some glimmers in retail as investors are increasingly making bets on consumer-discretionary spending.
There were no major releases on the calendar for a second consecutive day, a streak that will be continued Wednesday as many offices and the bond market will be closed in observance of the Veterans' Day holiday.
Filling the void, there were a parade of Fed speakers today: Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher.
Lockhart and Yellen warned that unemployment likely will remain high for the next several yearsbecause the economic recovery won't be strong enough to spur robust hiring. These were the first public remarks from Fed officials since the government last week reported that the unemployment rate surged to 10.2 percent in October, the highest since the mid-1980s.
Tarullo said governments must convince markets that they are willing and able to wind down large firms, not just bail them out.
Fisher speaks tonight.
The Treasury's $25 billion of 10-year notes today was met with decent demand. That followed strong demand for yesterday's 3-year auction. Thursday is the 30-year auction.
JPMorgan slipped 0.4 percent after the brokerage announced plans to reinstate its 401(k) matching — starting with 2009 — and said they plan to hire 1,200 mortgage officers.
AIG rose 3.9 percent said it is moving toward repaying bailout money.
And Yahoo is back in expansion mode — CEO Carol Bartz said they're hiring again. Its shares ticked up 0.1 percent.
Electronic Arts tumbled 6.4 percent after the videogame maker beat earnings forecasts and announced plans to cut about 1,500 jobs or 17 percent of its workforce. Shares had initially risen in after-hours trading.
Oracle and Sun Microsystems skidded. The U.S. Justice Department weighed in on regulatory concerns about Oracle's purchase of Sun in Europe, saying it does not agree with the EU's objections to the deal.
Monsanto rose 5.2 percent after the company said it sees an accelerated launch for new corn and soybean products and backed its full-year outlook.
Volume was light, with 1.07 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Decliners outpaced advancers, roughly 3 to 2.
Still to Come:
WEDNESDAY: Veterans' Day (offices, bond market closed); Bill Gates speaks; Forbes most powerful people list; weekly mortgage applications; Earnings from Macy's, Applied Materials
THURSDAY: FDA meeting on Internet advertising starts; Buffett/Gates/CNBC Town Hall meeting; Geithner at APEC meeting in Singapore; weekly jobless claims; weekly crude inventories; Treasury budget; Earnings from Wal-Mart, Disney
FRIDAY: NY Fed conference on financial intermediation; international trade; import/export prices; consumer sentiment; Nicholas Cosmo court appearance; Fed's Evans speaks; Earnings from JCPenney, Abercrombie
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