Stocks fall short in late push for positive territory

Stocks fell sharply to start today's trading session. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's comments about running out management and boards of directors at banks which need capital did not help, nor did an influential banking analyst coming out with very negative coverage of the sector at a new firm.

But the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed out for the day around noon before staging an afternoon rally that might have returned stocks to positive territory -- if only the trading session had lasted another hour. In the end, the DJIA closed down 42 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,976.

Some stocks making news today:

AT&T (T) may avert a worker strike as the telecom operator has agreed to extend and continue labor talks with the union representing about 90,000 workers in its land-line operations. Unfortunately, the sell-off was broad-based and shares were down 1.3% at $26.48 before the close.

American International Group (AIG) got slapped after its AIG Private Equity unit cut the valuation of its overall holdings by about 46% and said it is selling off funds to cut down on debt. Shares were down 3.5% at $1.10 before the close.

Cisco (CSCO) took it on the chin this morning after Goldman Sachs removed it from the Conviction Buy List. This was a valuation call. Shares were off almost 4% at $17.45 before the close.

Ford (F) was up a sharp 17% at $3.80 right before the close. The company slashed its automotive debt by more than one third in a tender and exchange offer, which sent shares screaming up on a down day.

Level 3 Communications (LVLT) raised an additional $220 million in cash on Monday, which takes away the need for it to raise more cash for debt maturities this year. Shares were down about 1% at $1.03 before the close.

Sun Microsystems (JAVA) took a huge hit after IBM reportedly pulled its offer to acquire the company after Sun protested about a lower price. Shares were down 25% at $6.45 before the close.

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