Updated from 2:54 p.m. EDT

Another Last-Hour Downturn

( At 6:05 p.m. EDT)

We've seen this before. It's one of my favorite things and maybe yours, too.

I'm talking about when the Dow Jones Industrial Average can't figure out what to do for about 90% of the session, and then in the final minutes it plunges or spikes. On Wednesday, it was the former.

At the end of the day the Dow had given back 82.99 points, or 1%, to 7886.57. Just before the close, it hit its low of 7868, so it did bounce up a few points from that level.

The index had looked good for a while, and it actually spent a fair bit of time above 8000, reaching nearly 8045 at its high. Ultimately though it was a back-and-forth session, and the sellers won.

Bank of America ( BAC) had the worst performance on a percentage basis, dropping 5.7% to $8.26, and it was also the most heavily traded of the 30 Dow components. Of the eight stocks that advanced, Caterpillar ( CAT) fared the best, gaining 3.4% to $32.45.

As for the companies with quarterly results, Boeing ( BA) and AT&T ( T) rose about 1.8% each, while McDonald's ( MCD) fell, losing 2.5% to $54.25.

This week has been a busy one for Dow earnings. On Thursday, only one, American Express ( AXP), is scheduled, and it's due after the close.

For the month, the index is now up 3.7%, though it remains down 10.1% for the year thus far.

Indecision for the Industrials

( At 2:30 p.m. EDT)

Where the market's going to go out today is anybody's guess. So far it's been up for a while, down for a while and then back around again.

The Dow opened lower, turned higher in short order and climbed above 8000. Then it weakened, then strengthened, and lately it was up 35 points at 8005.

Quarterly reports continue to come in from the index components, the most recent being AT&T ( T), Boeing ( BA) and McDonald's ( MCD).

The phone company and the planemaker were doing pretty well following their results, up about 3% each. The burger seller wasn't having as good of a day, slipping 1.6% to $54.74. I tend to give McDonald's a bit of a break on days like this. The stock has held up better than most of the rest of the industrials during what has been, I think we can agree, an awfully rough year and a half.

While its shares are 18% below its 52-week high of $67, only one Dow stock has been better in that time, Home Depot ( HD), which is 13.6% removed from its best level of the past year.

Earnings season began for the DJIA on April 7, when Alcoa ( AA) reported. That day, the index ended just under 7790. Since then, using the price at around 2:30 p.m. EDT, it's up about 215 points, or 2.7%.

That's really not bad for a two-week span, especially considering not all of the reports and forecasts have been particularly bullish.

Several profits have been down year over year, even if they've generally been in line with or ahead of estimates. Revenue numbers, meanwhile, haven't always been quite as strong in terms of analyst comparisons.

As I've said several times in the past, we might not be ready to sound the all clear yet, but we certainly don't have as many of those here comes the apocalypse days that we had last summer and fall, either. Steps in the right direction.

Nearly half of the Dow is still to report in the coming days and weeks. We'll see how it goes from here.

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