Updated from 4:26 p.m. EDT

All's Well After Hours

( At 5:10 p.m. EDT)

American Express ( AXP) posted a first-quarter continuing operations profit of $443 million, or 32 cents a share. That was far below last year's $1 billion and 89 cents a share, and revenue sank 18%.

Let's face it, we're not seeing a lot of companies grow earnings year over year these days. Again, the whole recession thing.

The total provision for losses jumped 49% to $1.8 billion. The charge-off rate rose, too, but those numbers have been out for a few days. However, the company said it's planning for writeoff rates to increase for the next couple of quarters.

Any good news? Sure. AmEx easily got past estimates that called for earnings of 12 cents a share. The stock was up 5.4% in late trading to $22.10. In the regular session, they were better by 7.9% to $20.97, the best performance on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The other DJIA stock with news after the bell -- Microsoft ( MSFT) -- was gaining 4.1% to $19.70 following the close, even though it wasn't perfect, either.

By the way, I hope you spent this day doing something useful, as I suggested. Once again, you only needed the final minutes. At the end of trading, the Dow was up 70.49 points, or 0.9%, to 7957.06, good for its fifth advance in seven days.

Mixed Showing From Microsoft

( At 4:12 p.m. EDT)

Looks like Microsoft ( MSFT) met analysts' profit estimates for the fiscal third quarter. The company earned 33 cents a share, but if you exclude charges that totaled 6 cents, the results would have matched Wall Street's consensus of 39 cents.

A cable television network that covers business news reported this as a miss, but the charges weren't factored in to the comparison. The stock was trading up in the minutes after the report.

Revenue, however, does appear to be light. The company had a top line of $13.65 billion, whereas the expectation was $14.1 billion.

Almost There

( At 3:52 p.m. EDT)

Just a few minutes left and Bank of America ( BAC) and American Express ( AXP) are sitting just below their best levels of the day, each up more than 6%. Only minutes away from earnings reports from both AmEx and Microsoft ( MSFT).

The rest of the stocks in the industrial average aren't doing much at all, as has been the case for a good part of the session.

At this point, looks like the Dow will close a little bit on the plus side, but that is far from certain. Still more than five minutes to go, after all.

Now Maybe We'll Get Somewhere

( At 2:32 p.m. EDT)

Talk about flat. With 90 minutes left in the session, the Dow has 15 stocks up and 15 down. Overall it's higher by 17 points at 7904.

So far, the day's range has been 7805 to 7917. Most of the changes in individual stocks were modest, at best.

American Express ( AXP) had the biggest gain, up 4.4%, followed by Bank of America ( BAC), rising 3.5%. GM ( GM), down 4.1% to $1.61, and Citigroup ( C), off 2.8% at $3.16, fell the most.

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) hiked its dividend, and no one cared. Shares were losing 14 cents to $51.04.

I really wish I had something else right now. Remember though, we've still go that final hour coming up. You've got time to get a quick nap in before the close.

This Market Needs Your Help

( At 10:30 a.m. EDT)

Weird day so far, and it ain't over yet. GM ( GM) is thinking about shutting most of its U.S. plants for as long as nine weeks in the near future. Let's basically just not make cars for a while, I suppose.

Tales of Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson ordering Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Ken Lewis to button it. What the people don't know won't hurt them, right?

Susan Boyle remains a singing sensation. Really no idea what to say here.

I know. Let's stay focused. The Dow hasn't been able to settle on a direction yet, though, so it's not easy you see. Recently the industrials were lower by 14 points at 7873. They were down around 60 and up about 23 in the first hour. In other words, not a lot to get excited about yet.

Twice as many of the 30 components were negative as those that were positive. BofA, adding 3.9% to $8.58, was the best percentage gainer. American Express ( AXP), ahead of its results due after the close, was up 2.4% to $19.90.

Meanwhile, the worst was GM, down 3%, which equates to 5 cents, at $1.64. Microsoft ( MSFT) -- also scheduled for this afternoon (my apologies I missed this one yesterday) -- was off 4 cents to $18.74.

We might well be looking at the same script we've seen so many times before. You know the one. Nothing matters until the last hour. Or half hour. No point worrying until then. Go get in nine holes. See a movie. Twitter or something.

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