Wall Street was poised to close a strong year with a weak finish, as investor wrapped up 2009 by selling stocks across the board.
With trading thin as investors set to pop the cork and celebrate a successful year, major averages moved further into negative numbers despite a jobless report that was the best weekly measure in 17 months.
The Labor Department said the number of workers filing new jobless claims last week dropped to 432,000, a move lower by 22,000 to the lowest level since July 2008.
At the same time, commodity stocks gained as the dollar faded. The SPDR Gold Trust ETF was higher as gold prices hovered around $1,100 an ounce.
Banks also were a bright spot, with Wells Fargo and Citigroup among the sector leaders.
On the Dow, Disney was one of only four gainers heading into the noon hour, with the only other gainers mainly banks. Caterpillar was atop the group in red numbers and Hewlett-Packard also lagged.
The day was shaping up as the bluechips' worst performance in two weeks.
Consumer stocks mostly performed well early, with over-the-counter drug distributor Perrigo among the group's biggest gainers.
Dow component Pfizer also slipped, as FDA hasn't completed a review of a more advanced form of the company's "Prevnar" vaccine for pneumonia and meningitis. A final decision had been expected Wednesday.
Time Warner Cable and News Corp. also continue their debate over carriage of News Corp.'s Fox-branded channels. If it isn't resolved, the Fox channels could disappear from Time Warner Cable systems. The dispute centers around News Corp. wanting $1 per subscriber in return for permission to carry those channels.
AIG legal counsel Anastasia Kelly has resigned for reasons related to pay limits imposed by pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. Kelly had told the company a few weeks ago that she was prepared to resign over the issue.