Updated from 1:33 p.m. EST with new stock pricesOn this last trading day of 2007, the financial sector tiptoed higher in piddling volume along with the major indices. The market will close tomorrow for New Year's Day. The NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 17.88 points, or 0.2%, to 8,300.68. The narrower KBW Bank Index added 0.3% to 88.58, while the Amex Securities Broker-Dealer tracker was up 0.5% at 207.42. The first and last of those were each bouyed by Merrill Lynch ( MER). Merrill's shares lost some ground after Britain's The Observer reported that the struggling brokerage is in more cash-infusion talks, this time with sovereign wealth funds in China and the Middle East. A week ago, Merrill announced it will
SCA shares were down 7 cents to $3.89. XL Capital ticked up 29 cents at $50.31. And Centerline ( CHC) shares continued to plunge following Friday's news that it will slash its dividend and take a hit of between $45 million and $55 million from securitizing its $2.8 billion affordable-housing-bond portfolio with Freddie Mac ( FRE). The asset manager also cut its 2007 forecast for cash available for distribution by at least 14 cents to between $1.70 and $1.75 a share. Centerline shares fell another 1% to $7.62 a share in heavy volume. Among the financial winners, however, was Legg Mason ( LM). After the close on Friday, the asset manager said it has cut its exposure to structured investment vehicles, or SIVs, to 3.2% of its total liquid assets. That should result in a charge of $22.2 million, or 15 cents a share. Still, Legg Mason shares were up $1.92 to $73.15.