(At 3:10 p.m. EDT) NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Dow has pared its losses but still remains lower with the closing bell only 50 minutes away. However, the Dow's current loss of 32 points looks a whole lot better than the 101-point loss the index sported earlier. What's really important is that the Dow did not fall through the psychologically important 9000 level, although it certainly came close. American Express ( AXP) continues to be a big laggard, along with Pfizer ( PFE) and Exxon Mobil ( XOM). On the bright side, Boeing ( BA) and Bank of America ( BAC) have helped the Dow regain some of its early losses. Both stocks were lately higher by more than 2%. While General Electric ( GE) gave back some of its gains, it was still higher by 1%.
Today's performance isn't surprising given that consumer confidence fell more than expected this month, making for two consecutive monthly declines. But really, the major U.S. averages definitely needed a breather. The Dow had jumped 11.6% over the last two weeks, the best performance since March 2000, and the index even eked out a gain Monday after trading lower most of the day. The Dow could still come back, of course, but this action today definitely makes sense. (At 10:30 a.m. EDT) Tuesday's trading session, at least so far, looks quite a bit like Monday's. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is trading lower, but only by 35 points, leaving the index fairly close to its best levels of 2009. The difference today is that there is an absence of earnings from Dow components. But the Dow was still holding its own, despite a sharp decline in shares of American Express ( AXP). AmEx shares were cut to in line from outperform at Fox Pitt-Kelton, which the firm said was based on valuation. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow, falling 78 cents, or 2.8%, to $27.60.
On the other hand, General Electric ( GE) was the best performer of only eight advancers on the Dow, rising 2% to $12.56. During an update Tuesday on GE Capital, executives said the unit will end 2009 with $480 billion to $485 billion in net investment, down from about $525 billion at the end of 2008, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. GE has been working to reduce the size of the troubled finance unit, as fears over its performance have dropped GE shares to their lowest levels since 1992. In other Dow component news, Bank of America ( BAC) is reportedly planning to trim about 10% of the bank's 6,100 branch network. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that BofA CEO Kenneth Lewis discussed the plans during a meeting last week. Liam McGee, president of BofA's consumer and small-business bank, also said branch closings are part of the plans but said it would be premature to specify how many locations could be closed, the report said, citing people familiar with the conversation The Dow looks as though it'll finish July with nearly an 8% gain. In the U.S., the Dow Jones U.S. Basic Materials Index has been the biggest winner this month, posting a 12.1% gain. On the other hand, the Dow Jones U.S. Telecommunications Index has notched the narrowest gain in July, up only 2.3%. The story was a bit different in Europe, where the Dow Jones STOXX 600 Basic Resources Index was the biggest gainer, climbing 13.7%, according to the Dow Jones Indexes. The Dow Jones STOXX 600 Travel & Leisure Index had the sharpest decline, falling 2.3%.
Meanwhile, in Asia, the Dow Jones Asia/Pacific Technology Index posted the biggest gain, rising 11.2%. The Dow Jones Asia/Pacific Health Care Index posted the narrowest gain, up 2.4%. -- Reported by Robert Holmes in New York.