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The Dow Now: Bank of America Leads Dow Financials' Advance

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Merck and Caterpillar were down on the day.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL US stocks stayed all but flat in mid-Thursday trading despite strong economic reports, as investors continued to await a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

Third-quarter GDP growth was revised up to 3.1% while existing home sales for November improved 5.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million. The consensus was only a 1.3% gain.

Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital in New York, told Reuters that "it is great to see this kind of growth, but investors know it could all disappear if there's no deal on the cliff,"

"Macro data may be on the back burner for a while," Schoenberger added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) was down 0.05% to 13,245.68 points as of 12:01 p.m. EST.

Financials enjoyed a strong day in the market. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) advanced 1.75% to $11.39, while JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) gained 1.13% to $44.02. American Express (NYSE:AXP) (+0.32%) and other major financials such as Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) (+1.10%), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) (+1.10%), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) (+1.01%) were also up on the day. The bellwether Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLF), which tracks all financial stocks in the S&P 500, was up 0.70% to $16.58.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) also jumped 1.57% to $21.15 after a report from Bernstein Research that asserted that the company will likely benefit from a "very low tax rate" in its fourth quarter. The year "is finishing in-line with recent expectations, albeit with lower industrial organic growth and a very low tax rate for GE Capital," said Bernstein's Steven WInoker, adding that GE Capital's tax rate will likely be "even lower than [the third quarter] as [commercial real estate] is able to deploy higher tax loss carry forwards now that they are generating higher levels of sales/gains (which are always treated as regular GE Capital operating earnings)."

Merck (NYSE:MRK) slid 2.45% to $42.59 after its cholesterol drug, tredaptive, did not show better ability to prevent heart attacks, deaths, or strokes than traditional drugs in a major trial. The company announced that it would not be requesting for regulatory approval for the drug in the US.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) also retreated 0.99% to $89.37 after it said that global machine sales had increased at a slower rate in the three months through November because of fiscal cliff uncertainty in the US.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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