First it was the chief executive of Charles Schwab Corp. who was felled by the faltering market, now a batch of brokers are going to lose their jobs as Schwab closes 53 branches to cut its costs.
The nation's largest discount broker announced the closings -- which represent about 16 percent of its branches -- as Wall Street demonstrated once again why small investors are avoiding the market.
Dithering through another day, the Dow Jones industrial average swung between a 50-point gain and almost as big a loss before closing up 12 points at 10,129.24.
The Dow was hobbled by General Motors, whose stock fell after two Wall Street firms downgraded it. They warned that GM dealer lots are clogging up with so many unsold vehicles that the world's biggest car maker is unlikely to hit its profit targets this year or next.
The 1.3 percent loss by GM amounted to 10 points off the Dow.
Believers in old-fashioned blue chips also were rattled by news that AT&T Corp., once the bluest of them all, has been downgraded to junk bond status by credit rating agencies because its future prospects are so dim.
The next generation had a better day as the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index climbed behind the leadership of computer chip stocks. The Nasdaq composite gained almost 23 points to 1,881.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index picked up 5 points, closing at 1,100.43.
Traders were relieved a bit by falling oil prices as the controversy eased over whether the Russian government would shut down petroleum exports by Yukos Oil because of a dispute over back taxes. But oil dropped only 15 cents a barrel, to $42.75 in the New York futures market, indicating that uncertainty about world oil supplies is still keeping prices high.
Today's report on new applications for unemployment benefits showed no improvement in the jobs market, keeping that issue alive for Democrats and keeping open the question of the economy's health.
That will be Wall Street's big issue Friday, when the government releases its monthly report on the growth of the gross domestic product, the key measure of the economy.