Financial stocks were generally hemmed in with the mildly buoyant Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, amid mixed smatterings of news on Tuesday. Struggling bond insurer Ambac ( ABK) was a big winner, lately surging by more than 16%, after JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) disclosed that it had bought about another 2 million Ambac shares over the course of 2007. The bank increased its stake in the company to 7.7%. As of year-end 2006, JPMorgan's Ambac holdings had stood at 5.4%. Ambac shares were leaping $1.79 to $12.92; JPMorgan was recently adding 1.2% to $46.75. Countrywide Financial ( CFC) reported swinging to a fourth-quarter loss of $422 million, or 79 cents a share, from a year-earlier profit of $1.01 a share. The mortgage lender cited a $924 million credit-loss provision -- up more than twelvefold from last year, though slightly under the prior quarter -- as well as $831 million in impairment to "credit-sensitive" residuals. The results widely miss Wall Street's call for a loss of 30 cents a share, per Thomson Financial. Still, they're a huge improvement from the third quarter's $2.85 shortfall. Furthermore, Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Ken Lewis, at the Citigroup Financial Services Conference in New York Tuesday, said that "everything is a go" regarding BofA's
agreement to buy Countrywide . Countrywide added 6.2% to $6.32 as BofA stock rose 1.5%. Credit-card company American Express ( AXP) posted fourth-quarter continuing-operations income of $839 million, or 71 cents a share, meeting its own slashed targets , as well as those of analysts. Shares ticked up a dime to $47.50. Also in the fourth quarter, Massachusetts-based Hanover Insurance's ( THG) income vaulted 66.6% year over year to $75.8 million, or $1.44 a share. Fellow insurer Unum Group ( UNM), of Tennessee, saw climbing adjusted earnings of 59 cents a share that beat projections by a nickel. Shares recently jumped 8.6% and 5.7%, respectively. Elsewhere, real estate investment trust Quadra Realty Trust ( QRR) leapt by roughly one-third to $10.62 after Hypo Real Estate agreed to buy all of the Quadra shares it doesn't already own -- 65.3% of the company -- for $10.6506 a share in cash. Quadra also plans on declaring a dividend of 34.94 cents a share, meaning investors will get a total of $11 a share. The company's last quarterly dividend was for just 19 cents a share. The buyout should close in March. The NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 0.4% to 7,868.02, and the Amex Securities Broker-Dealer Index added 0.7%. On the flip side, New York Community Bancorp ( NYB) reported that fourth-quarter operating earnings stayed essentially flat with last year at 21 cents a share, missing Wall Street expectations by 2 cents, and California's East West Bancorp ( EWBC) likewise shot below the mark for that quarter. Shares were off 1.2% to $17.58 and 4.8% to $23.70, respectively. Online broker optionsXpress ( OXPS), meanwhile, lost 7.2% to $27.57 despite a 44.2% income leap to $28 million, or 44 cents a share, that topped by a penny a share. Investment manager Waddell & Reed ( WDR) was flush with Wall Street estimates, and T. Rowe Price ( TROW) beat them comfortably, but shares were still down 0.1% and 0.5%, respectively. Away from earnings, Legg Mason ( LM) has named company veteran Mark Fetting its new CEO . He replaces co-founder Raymond "Chip" Mason, who will now serve as nonexecutive chairman. Shares were down $1.24, or $1.7%, to $70.81.