Bank of America ( BAC) shares were edging higher following reports that it may sell a portion of its 11% stake in China Construction Bank. The banking titan also appeared set to carry out its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, despite declines in both firms' stock prices, according to a report in the Financial Times. Earnings season continued amid the financial turmoil, as industrial bellwether General Electric ( GE) reported third-quarter earnings that declined 12% year over year but were in line with revised estimates. As for analyst actions, Wells Fargo, along with insurance and credit services firms such as State Auto ( STFC), Erie Indemnity ( ERIE), Donegal Group ( DGICA) and Advanta ( ADVNB) all caught upgrades from Stifel Nicolaus. Looking at economic data, the Census Bureau's report on the trade balance for August showed a deficit of $59.1 billion, whereas the economy registered a $62.2 billion deficit in July. Economists had anticipated an August deficit of $59 billion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that export prices excluding agricultural goods declined 1% in September. Import prices excluding oil dropped 0.9%. In commodities, crude oil was down $7 to $79.59 a barrel. Gold was climbing $17.70 to $868.80 an ounce. Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling. The 10-year was down 18/32 to yield 3.85%, and the 30-year was declining 24/32, yielding 4.14%. The dollar was climbing vs. the euro and pound, but falling against the yen. Overseas, European markets were taking it on the chin. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were each down more than 7%. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng also closed with broad losses.