Banks stocks retreated in light trading a day before Thanksgiving.
The KBW Bank Index edged down 0.18%. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.29% and the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.45%.
Tim Curran, a trader at Regions Financial Corp.'s Morgan Keegan & Co., classified investors as being in one of two categories. The first group included those who had "made their bogey" in 2009 and were holding pat until next year. "The other group includes people who think there is going to be a double dip," he said. "They are simply waiting for the right time to buy in."
For anyone paying attention to broad data it was a mixed bag.
The Labor Department reported encouraging unemployment news. The number of people on unemployment fell 3.4% last week from the week earlier, to 5.42 million. The agency also reported a 7% decline in first-time applications for unemployment benefits over the same period, to 466,000.
Unfortunately, such improvement did not translate into renewed consumer confidence.
The University of Michigan and Reuters reported a second straight monthly drop in their consumer sentiment index, to 67.4 from 70.6 in October. (The latest number was a slight upward revision from the reading of 66 taken earlier this month.) Additionally, 38% of respondents reported a decline in income.
"Consumers cite their deteriorating finances as well as their uncertainty about future job and income prospects more than ever before, and this has made them very cautious spenders," Richard Curtin, the survey's director, said in a statement that accompanied the results.
Bank of America Corp. shares fell 1.1%. The company has yet to name a successor for Chief Executive Ken Lewis, despite earlier assurances to make a decision around Thanksgiving. There has been some speculation among analysts and investors that B of A could extend its self-imposed deadline into next month or beyond.
Shares of Citizens and Northern Corp. fell 6.9% after the Wellsboro, Pa., company priced an offering of 2.5 million shares of common stock at $8 a share. Even with the decline, the price of the offering, targeting $20 million in proceeds, represents a 7% discount to the stock's closing price Wednesday.
Wainwright Bank and Trust Co. shares rose 4.7% a day after the Boston company said it had repurchased $22 million of preferred stock to exit the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Wainwright said it plans to negotiate a price to buy back warrants associated with Tarp.
MetroCorp Bancshares Inc. shares jumped 9.4% after the Houston company said it had amended the call report for unit MetroBank to correct "overstated" loan delinquencies. The company, which did not discuss the specifics of what it amended, attributed the mistake to "a compilation error" that was discovered during a routine audit.
Other gainers included Popular Inc., 1.6%; Regions Financial Corp., 1.1%; and Comerica Inc., 0.4%.
Decliners included Susquehanna Bancshares Inc., 3.9%; Associated Banc-Corp, 3.5%; and First Commonwealth Financial Corp. in Indiana, Pa., 2.3%.