Stocks pulled off a gain — barely — as investors cheered earnings surprises from American Express and others amid an underlying buzz of anxiety about the economy.
This came a day after stocks eked out a gaindespite a crushing wave of layoffs that saw more than 70,000 jobs plucked from the economy in just one day.
Investors got some earnings surprises before the bell but they were quickly quashed by a report soon after the open that showed consumer confidence fell to a record low in January.
"Consumers remain quite pessimistic about the state of the economy," Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Research Center, said in a statement.
But stocks chugged higher again and financials led the Dow pack: American Express shot up 9.7 percent, Bank of America gained 8.3 percent and Citigroup rose 6.6 percent.
Citigroup had steadily moved higher today but shot up after CEO Vikram Pandit reiterated his plan to slash costs. Speaking at a Citigroup financial-services conference in New York, Pandit said he plans to slash expenses to $32 billion, down 15 percent from last year.
Investors snapped up shares of American Express after the credit-card maker late Monday beat earnings expectations even as it reported its profit dropped 72 percent.
Analysts had anticipated the worst after dismal results last week from rival Capital One that showed credit-card spending fell 10 percent.
U.S. Steel jumped nearly 7 percent after the steelmaker reported its earnings increased more than eightfold.
Bristol Myers Squibb also surpassed forecasts as strong sales of blockbuster blood thinner Plavix help the drug maker swing to a huge profit. Its shares rose 4 percent.
Texas Instruments shares rose 3.6 percent after the chip maker pleased investors will a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit and said it would slash 12 percent of its workforce.
After dismal earnings from handset makers, analysts expected some gloomy results from wireless-chip makers like TI.
These were the latest in a series of earnings surprises: More than half of the S&P firms that reported earnings have topped expectations.