Stocks Pare Losses After Chicago PMI

Stocks pared their losses Wednesday — and the Dow briefly turned positive — after a better-than-expected report on Midwest manufacturing.

This came after the Dow snapped a six-day winning streak — with a loss of just over a point — on Tuesday.

Nonetheless it's all but certain stocks will end 2009 with their best yearly advances since 2003, and will end December with gains for the month.

The Chicago purchasing-manager's index jumped to 60 in December from 56.1 in November — the highest since January 2006 and well above expectations. The employment gauge also rose, hitting its highest since November 2007.

More green crept into the Dow: Travelersand P&G led the charge. Alcoa , GE and American Express were at the bottom of the Dow pack.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which ordinarily issues its weekly mortgage applications report on Wednesday, will not do so this time around because of the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Instead, it will report on two weeks' worth of data next Wednesday.

The Treasury will conclude $118 billion in auctions this week with a sale of $32 billion in 7-year notes. As usual, the results will be available shortly after 1 pm.

Stocks got off to a slow start as the dollar rose, putting pressure on commodity prices — and commodity stocks.

In company news, lender GMACwill reportedly get another $3.5 billion in aid from the government, on top of the $12.5 billion it's already gotten. That's according to the Wall Street Journal. The Treasury will only say that it's in discussions with GMAC to ensure that its capital needs are met.

Broadcom could be a stock to watch today, as the chipmaker settled a class action lawsuit related to stock option backdating.

Microsoft also will be worth watching as Kaufman said it expects a "blowout" quarter for the company, raising its price target from $235 to $253.

And shares of Dow component Pfizer could be active, as it ends a late stage study of an experimental lung cancer drug, after it resulted in a higher rate of side effects among patients who took it compared to those who did not. Pfizer does say it did not end the trial for safety reasons.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Retailer Target says it was among the victims of computer hacker Albert Gonzalez, who has pleaded guilty to masterminding the biggest identity theft in U.S. history, but it says the number of credit card numbers stolen from Target customers was extremely limited and that all customers had been notified.

- Peter Schacknow contributed to this article.

Still to Come:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly crude inventories; 7-year auction
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims
FRIDAY: New Year's Day — all US financial markets closed

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