Auto Bailout Cheer vs. Bank Downgrade Fear

Mary Thompson is in for Bob Pisani today.

As the week draws to a close, stocks are holding onto modest gains.

The news the government is extending $17.4 billion in loans to Chrysler and General Motors was well received at the open, but markets haven't been able to sustain those gains.

Retailers are acting squirrely on concerns about weak Christmas spending, and financials are mixed after Standard & Poor's cut its outlook and ratings on 12 major banks including JP Morgan, UBS and Citigroup, on concerns about how they will perform in the face of a global slowdown.

More CNBC Intelligence:

At the open we saw big, big volume, thanks to today's quadruple witch, or the simultaneous expiration of stock and index options and futures. Traders don't expect this to result in a lot of volatility at the close, though, because there wasn't big short interest on the OEX options coming into the expiration.

Traders are also waiting to see what companies get kicked out, and pulled into the S&P indices as the quarterly rebalancing of the S&P 400, 500 and 600 occur after the close.

One thing giving traders hope is the continued slide in the VIX. This volatility index, a measure of fear in the markets, broke below its November low of 44.25 today. Its been trending down for the last two weeks, leading some to believe the worst may be over — but then, they add, we will see what the new year brings.


Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com