Bank stocks fell slightly Wednesday to give the sector its third consecutive losing day despite gains in the overall markets.

The KBW Bank Index fell 0.74%, to 43.02.

Losers included SunTrust Banks Inc., which fell 1.85%, to $20.18; Fifth Third Bancorp, which fell 1.31%, to 9.79; Bank of America Corp., which fell 0.33%, to $15.07; Citigroup Inc., which fell 5 cents, to 3.32; and Marshall & Ilsley, which fell 7 cents, to 5.43.

Gainers included Bank of New York Mellon Corp., which rose 1.41%, to 28.02; JPMorgan Chase & Co., which rose 0.10%, to $41.53, and Comerica Inc., which rose 0.27%, to $30.04.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 3.10 points, or 0.03%, at 10548.51, its highest close in nearly 15 months.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 2.88, or 0.13%, to 2291.28, its highest close since Sept. 3, 2008.

The Standard & Poor's 500 climbed 0.22, or 0.02%, to 1126.42. Its technology and materials sectors offset declines across consumer discretionary and industrial stocks.

A survey of Chicago-area purchasing professionals showed that business activity in the U.S. much faster than expected in December. However, a separate report showed that while manufacturing activity in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's district expanded in December, the growth was slower than in November.

Stocks spent much of Wednesday's session slightly lower or virtually flat before turning positive at the close. Volume was particularly light ahead of the New Year's Day holiday on Friday.

Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel, cautioned against interpreting much from the action. He noted that with volume so light, investors' individual moves can have a bigger impact on the market than they usually would.

"If you're an investor with a bigger-than-normal block of any stock and you're trying to sell it, you might drive the price down more than you would on a normal day" due to the lighter-than-usual volume, Tuz said. "So I tend to discount what goes on this week."

Volume is expected to start ramping back up next week at the start of what Tuz expects "may be a better year economy-wise, but a tougher year stock market-wise" than 2009. He added that "2010 is going to be the show-me year. You've cut your costs, now show me the economy can grow again and you as a company can grow again."

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