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Stocks End Wild Week With Mixed Results

The stock market ended both the day and the week essentially flat, with the twin stimuli of interest rate cuts and an automaker bailout unable to overcome a weakening economy and pessimism about the future of the banking system.

Major indexes ended Friday trading mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower but the Standard & Poor's 500 and the tech gauge Nasdaqposting modest gains. The Dow ended at 8579.11, the S&P at 887.60 and the Nasdaq at 1564.32.

Automakers led market gainers following President Bush's announcement that up to $17.4 billion would be made available to General Motors and Chrysler to help the troubled companies through the rest of the year and the beginning of 2009. Ford refused the federal funds but renewed a request for a line of credit.

Under terms of the rescue plan, auto makers will be provided with $13.4 billion in short-term financing from the TARP, with another $4 billion available in February, but must agree to use the funds to become financially viable. They will also have open their books to the government, agree to limit executive compensation and eliminate perks like corporate jets. The government debt will become senior to all other debt.

General Motors shares shot up 15 percent, but Ford posted comparatively mild gains.

Banks suffered after Standard & Poor's cut its rating or outlook on 12 major financial institutions in the US and Europe.

Among those hit were Goldman Sachs , Bank of America and Citigroup. S&P said the downgrades reflected the difficult economic environment.

Citi led losers on the Dow while pharma giant Merck was among the index's biggest gainers following GM.

Crude oil continued to slide, trading below $35 a barrel . Oil has dropped more than $10 this week, after ending above $46 last week.

But energy producers reversed earlier losses, with BP and Dow component ExxonMobil posting gains.

American Apparel shares jumped after the clothing chain was able to amend a few credit agreements to modify covenants and other conditions to help it continue operating. The company said it also spoke with its lenders about possibly extending the maturity of its debt into 2010.

Adding a layer of volatility to today's trading was quadruple witching, which means the expiration of options and futures contracts across the board. Specifically, the market index, market index options, stock options and stock futures contracts each expire.

Meanwhile, bond fund Pimco turned down a debt-exchange offer from GMAC, threatening the company's bid to qualify for U.S. government funds, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In earnings news, Oracle shares rose after the business software maker hit its earnings target, though sales fell short, shaved by the strong dollar and economic slowdown.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion also met forecasts and delivered a rosier-than-expected outlookfor the holiday quarter amid strong smartphone sales.

In a new twist in the Madoff saga, Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L Madoff Investments Securities, hired Lazard Freres to help sell the trading operations of Madoff's company, according to the firm's Web site.

And a former Lehman Brothers salesman was charged with insider trading after he tipped friends and relatives with inside information about 13 impending mergers by divulging confidential information he got from his wife, a public relations executive.

Asian stocks trimmed gains after the Bank of Japan slashed rates to 0.10 percent, while European shares were down 2 percent in mid-morning trading.

On Tap for Next Week:

TUESDAY: Final reading on Q3 GDP; consumer sentiment; existing-home sales; new-home sale
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; durable-goods orders; weekly jobless claims; personal income/spending; weekly crude and nat-gas inventories; U.S. financial markets close at 1pm
THURSDAY: All U.S. financial markets closed for Christmas holiday