Updated from 9:04 a.m. EST

U.S. stocks traded narrowly mixed following Wednesday's opening bell, as the automakers attempted to secure their future by asking Congress for money, and consumer prices and housing starts showed record declines.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

edged up 16 points to 8441, and the

S&P 500

was up 2 points to 861. The

Nasdaq

was down 3 points to 1480.

As trading commenced, companies were still trying salve wounds inflicted by the faltering economy.

After arriving hat in hand on Capitol Hill Tuesday to plead their case for access to federal funding, chief executives of woebegone

automakers

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

will attempt again Wednesday to exchange a grilling by members of Congress for billions of dollars in government aid. The Big Three have been walloped lately by a combination of flagging sales, troubles in their finance divisions and high labor costs.

As General Motors continued to scrape for cash, German solar firm

SolarWorld

announced plans to buy assets of GM's German segment,

Adam Opel

.

The U.S. auto companies weren't the only ones coping with a tough market.

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

said it will cut production in North American plants and lay off 250 of its temporary workers.

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

, which along with GM is a component of the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, is resetting its production schedule as it attempts to recover from a strike by its machinists' union, according to a report by

The Wall Street Journal

.

Meanwhile, industrial conglomerate and fellow Dow company

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

said it would reorganize its GE Capital finance branch to cut costs.

Elsewhere, government-controlled mortgage firm

Fannie Mae

( FNM) received notice from the

New York Stock Exchange

that it faces delisting if it can't keep its share price above $1.

In earnings news, bulk retailer

BJ's Wholesale

(BJ) - Get Report

reported rising third-quarter profit that was aided by gasoline sales.

As to

analyst actions

, Goldman Sachs put BlackBerry maker

Research In Motion

( RIMM) on its conviction buy list.

On the economic-data front, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that its

consumer price index

fell 1% for October thanks in part to falling energy prices. The CPI's decline was its largest on record. Economists were expecting a decline of 0.8%. The core rate dropped 0.1%, following a 0.1% uptick in September.

Separately, the Census Bureau said that

housing starts

declined 4.5% to an annual rate of 791,000 for October, the largest one-month decline since the government began tracking the figures.

Minutes from the Oct. 29 meeting of the

Federal Reserve's

Open Market Committee are due out later today.

In the realm of commodities, crude oil was adding 3 cents to $54.42 a barrel. Gold was adding $8.70 to $741.40 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year note was up 14/32 to yield 3.47%, and the 30-year was gaining 28/32, yielding 4.06%. The dollar was climbing vs. the yen but weakening against the euro and pound.

Overseas, the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were both trading lower. In

Asia

, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with losses.