Updated from 3:44 p.m. EDT

One Day to Go

( At 5:39 p.m. EDT)

Maybe the market should be open for an hour every day. Or even 30 minutes. It would save us all a lot of guessing, speculating, waiting for reversals that may or may not happen and trying to figure out what exactly is going on with stocks at any given time.

Here's a summary of Wednesday's session: The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened higher, only to fall back at midmorning. Then it rallied into the afternoon, dropped when the minutes of the Fed meeting came out, only to bounce in the final hour to finish with a gain of 47.55 points, or 0.6%, at 7837.11.

This pattern should be familiar if you've paid any attention whatsoever to the market over the past couple of years. Chaos, fear or uncertainty almost every day. Hard to remember the last time we had a nice, calm session.

Look at a one-day chart. How many times have we seen those jagged peaks and valleys drawn in the few hours that stocks trade in New York?

Ultimately 18 industrials rose, and 12 fell. American Express ( AXP) was the top percentage gainer, adding 4.7% to $15.72. Next was Alcoa ( AA), which added 3.5% to $8.06.

Bank of America ( BAC), down 4.1% at $7.06, and General Motors ( GM), off 3.5% at $1.93, had the poorest showings.

With the gain, the Dow's month-to-date increase went to 3%.

Thursday's the last trading day of the week, and next week the earnings crush will really begin. Let's look forward to that three-day weekend. Sit down and watch the Masters. Relax. Might be a while before we get a vacation.

Bernanke and Friends Have Bad News

( At 3:30 p.m. EDT)

The Federal Reserve told us this afternoon that the economy is struggling. After that breaking news, stocks became less interesting and the Dow turned lower.

Listen, I'm not saying the minutes of the central bank's latest meeting were exactly uplifting, but we can't get a break lately. The industrials have been down both days this week, and for now appear incapable of rebounding even modestly.

Of course, about half an hour remains in the trading day, so a recovery is possible. You just hate to see a downturn on news that shouldn't really come as a major surprise to anyone.

Retreating issues have taken charge, and recently 19 of the 30 components were lower. Bank of America ( BAC), off 5.3% at $6.97, had the worst pullback. American Express ( AXP) was the best stock, up 2.7% at $15.42.

These last few minutes, anything can happen. As usual.

Does This Make Any Sense?

( At 1:05 p.m. EDT)

The Securities and Exchange Commission had a long debate on whether to bring back the uptick rule. Some life insurers may get TARP access. Pulte Homes ( PHM) is merging with Centex ( CTX). The minutes of the most recent Federal Reserve meeting will be out later.

Nouriel Roubini had more commentary about the market, and it wasn't good. Pirates attack U.S. ship. U.S. crew turns on pirates and retakes ship. We think. A coworker is asking me if Jennifer Aniston is still dating John Mayer. I have a headache with all of this. What a day.

So what does it all mean? Who knows. It's a lot to digest. What we do know is this -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average has strengthened since midmorning and was up about 80 points at 7869 with around three hours left in the trading session. If it can stay in the green, the index will have its first advance of the week.

Of the 30 components, 23 of them were higher, six were lower and one, Citigroup ( C), was unchanged. Several stocks are only a few pennies on either side of the flat line, so that number is fluid.

Alcoa ( AA), for instance, was down 1 cent at $7.78 a day after its quarterly results. Caterpillar ( CAT) was off 5 cents, Kraft ( KFT) was giving back 2 cents.

GE ( GE) was up 4 cents, and Intel ( INTC) was tacking on 8 cents. See what I mean?

American Express ( AXP), up 6.5% at $15.98, and General Motors ( GM), down 4% at $1.92, were basically the only notable percentage moves in either direction.

This is what happens with short weeks. The confusion. It's pro forma Thursday on Wall Street, after all.

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