From a low-water mark of 13,470.2 hit today just before 11:30 a.m. the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA 13,632.4) has pared the worst of its losses, but a trip beyond the breakeven zone was fleeting. Disappointing earnings from Merrill Lynch (MER) and (AMZN) sent the blue-chip average spiraling lower to a drop of more than 200 points, or 1.5% in early trading.

But about 2:00 p.m., stocks spun on their heels and set positive territory in their collective sights. A quick peek into the black occurred around 3:20 p.m. but was greeted by the bears, who put a selling campaign back on the table. It's important to note, as well, that this afternoon's advance was a shallow one. Decliners continue to outnumber advancers by a greater than 2-to-1 margin on the New York Stock Exchange and negative issues have trounced positive issues on the Nasdaq, 2,095 to 836.

With 20 minutes until the closing bell, the Dow is down 42 points (at its highest point, the average was 14 points higher). The S&P 500 Index (SPX 1,510.29) is back above the 1,500 mark but is down 8.5 points, or half a percent. And the Nasdaq Composite (COMP 2,765.3) is in the cellar, with a loss of 34 points.