Wednesday's Financial Winners & Losers

A Buffett brushoff to financials leads the sector lower.
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Updated from 1:54 p.m. EST with new stock prices

Following a brushoff by Warren Buffett, financial stocks were creeping lower Wednesday -- in step with the major indices -- on a very slow post-Christmas day.

The billionaire investor told

CNBC

that, though he's gotten proposals to take stakes in financial-services firms, he hasn't seen anything attractive yet. Still, Buffett said, he may change his mind over the next six months.

Yesterday, Buffett's

Berkshire-Hathaway

(BRKA)

firm announced that it will

buy a 60% stake in Marmon Holdings for $4.5 billion. Marmon is an industrial conglomerate owned by Chicago's Pritzker family, one of the wealthiest families in the United States. Berkshire's Class A shares were up 0.4% at $138,500.00 in extremely thin trading.

But most financial stocks were losing ground amid broad-market pressure and Buffett's comments on the sector. Troubled banking giant

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

, for example, shed 1.7% to $30.45, and Ohio bank

National City

(NCC)

surrendered 2.1%.

That weighed on the

NYSE

Financial Sector Index, which lost 16.42 points, or 0.2%, to 8,424.06. The KBW Bank Index, which tracks Citi and National City, was down 0.5% to 90.84.

Another member of the KBW tracker, Seattle's

Washington Mutual

(WM) - Get Report

, gave up 0.1% to $13.98 following Friday reports that the

Securities and Exchange Commission

is probing the bank's possible involvement in allegedly inflated house-price appraisals.

Last month, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo

sent subpoenas to

Fannie Mae

and

Freddie Mac

, which have bought mortgages from WaMu. That came on the heels of a

lawsuit against

First American's

(FAF) - Get Report

house-appraisal unit, eAppraiseIT, for allegedly inflating real estate prices under pressure from WaMu.

Fannie was up 1.1%; Freddie lost 1.6%; and First American gave up 1.2%.

Elsewhere,

The Associated Press

reported that asset manager

BlackRock's

(BLK) - Get Report

Cash Strategies fund was frozen last week to stymie a tide of clients pulling their money out. The fund specializes in short-term investments such as government bonds and mortgage debt, said the

A.P.

BlackRock shares spent the morning in negative territory, but pulled up to add $2.55 at $222.03.

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

was also trading near the ground following Monday's news of a

big cash influx, mostly courtesy of a Singapore-based firm named Temasek Holdings. The firm agreed to buy $4.4 billion in Merrill shares, and has the option for another $600 million's worth by March 28. Davis Selected Advisors, for its part, agreed to snap up $1.2 billion in Merrill shares. Both firms are taking their stakes at a discount.

Merrill shares ended Monday's session lower and began today's with a slide, but ended ticking up 1.2% at $54.54.

Among the solid financial gainers was investment firm

Ampal-American Israel

(AMPL)

, which signed with Israel-based Merhav for the option to buy up to 35% equity of a sugar cane ethanol production venture in Colombia. Merhav is developing the project, said Ampal, and has inked a memorandum of understanding to buy between 25% and 35% of it from Columbian petroleum firm Ecopetrol.

The option expires in a year, when another party buys at least one-quarter of the project, or when Merhav gets third-party debt financing for it -- whichever occurs first. Ampal shares were climbing 5.9% to $7.78 in fairly light trading.

Also among the winners today were struggling bond insurers

Ambac

(ABK)

and

MBIA

(MBI) - Get Report

, as well as mortgage investor

Countrywide

(CFC)

and Puerto Rican bank

Popular

(BPOP) - Get Report

.