Stocks Up and Down, but Not Too Much So

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It's the quiet before the noisemakers, the sobriety before the bacchanalia.

Wall Street must be resting up for a heck of a New Year's Eve celebration, because there's certainly little strenuous activity underway this midday (the mariachis and dancers at the

New York Stock Exchange

notwithstanding). The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, coming off gains of more than 100 points in each of the last two sessions, dropped quickly at the open -- but not a lot. It lost as much as 23.67 to 7892.30 before bouncing back -- but, again, not a lot. The blue-chip index gained as much as 25.16 to 7941.13, then slipped back again to hug the break-even line. Around 12:10 p.m. EST, the Dow was up 13 to 7929.

The news was similar for the broad

S&P 500

, which was up less than a point to 971. The tech-filled

Nasdaq Composite Index

was making a more decisive move, up 7 to 1572, and the small-cap

Russell 2000

was up 2 to 436. The bellwether 30-year Treasury bond was up 18/32 to 102 21/32 in price, the yield easing to 5.94%.

Paul Rich, a trader at

BT Brokerage

in New York, said he didn't expect too much action to shake up the Street's stilled trading desks. "If there would be, I would consider it to be to the upside," he said. "There's that psychological thing; people want to see it close above 8000. In my opinion we're just going to hang around these levels, but I think you will see a little bit of buying around the end of the day."

There's already considerable buying going on in the transport sector, which is extending its extraordinary gains from yesterday. The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

, which yesterday posted its largest point gain ever (100.26 to 3216.22) in rising 3.2%, was up a healthy 29 to 3245 at midday. Airlines such as

Southwest

(LUV) - Get Report

,

US Airways

(U) - Get Report

and

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

continued to lead the ascent, but

Airborne Freight

(ABF)

succumbed to profit-taking after yesterday's big jump.

A couple of stocks were taking hard hits on negative news.

Fresh America

(FRES)

was down 5 5/8, or 23.1%, to 19 1/8 after warning that it expects to report fourth-quarter earnings of 25 cents to 30 cents per share. The three-analyst

First Call

estimate called for 46 cents versus the year-ago 38 cents.

Paragon Trade Brands

(PTB)

was one of the NYSE's biggest percentage losers, off 2 5/16, or 11.4%, to 17 15/16 after saying a patent ruling in favor of

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

could cost Paragon $160 million to $200 million.