Bank stocks managed to stay in positive territory Wednesday as investors prepared for what some fear will be a dicey third-quarter earnings season.

The KBW Bank Index dipped in the morning but closed up 1.16%.

"It's the angst in front of earnings season," said James Bradshaw, an analyst at Bridge City LLC in Portland, Ore. "I think it's going to be ugly, but we just don't have any data yet, so it's fear ahead of the news at this point."

At the top of investors' minds once again will be credit-quality trends — whether or not nonperfoming assets have peaked, as well as the extent of actual credit losses, Bradshaw said.

"It'll be interesting to see the data flow in the next few days," he said.

Gainers included JPMorgan Chase & Co., up 1.8%; Bank of America Corp., 2.1%; Wells Fargo & Co., 2.1%; U.S. Bancorp, 0.6%; SunTrust Banks Inc., 0.3%; Capital One Financial Corp., 2.7%; Marshall & Ilsley Corp., 0.8%; M&T Bank Corp., 0.2%, and Regions Financial Corp., 1.7%.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. remained unchanged from Monday's closing price of $45.73 a share.

Decliners included Citigroup Inc., off 3 cents a share, to $4.64, and Zions Bancorp., 0.1%.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.06%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.27%.

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