Stocks rise and fall, end slightly down

NEW YORK — After months of giving investors only headaches, consumers gave Wall Street a break Tuesday.

Stocks ended with modest losses after fluctuating throughout the day. Worries that large banks might need more capital and the spread of swine flu were balanced by news that the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index surged.

IBM Corp.'s decision to boost its dividend and spend more to buy back stock gave the market another shot of confidence, but an afternoon rally petered out in the last hour to leave major market indicators just barely in the red.

GM tells its dealers to expect closings

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. told its dealers Tuesday that it will force 1,000 to 1,200 underperforming locations to close their doors as the automaker tries to thin dealer ranks to make the remaining outlets more profitable.

GM told the dealers about the plan in a video conference, according to a dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity. It is part of the company's plan announced Monday to cut more than 2,600 dealers by 2010.

The company expects to lose 500 Hummer and Saturn dealers when those brands close or are sold, and it expects 400 dealers to close voluntarily. Another 500 would be consolidated into other dealerships.

Chrysler LLC might avoid bankruptcy

NEW YORK — With just two days left before a government-imposed restructuring deadline, Chrysler LLC took a step away from the brink of bankruptcy Tuesday when its biggest lenders reached a deal with the Treasury Department to cut the automaker's debt.

Chrysler has a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers and is closing in on a pact with Italian automaker Fiat Group. Chrysler has cleared nearly all of the hurdles ahead of its Thursday deadline. Yet if the company's smaller creditors don't get on board, a bankruptcy filing remains a possibility.

Index: Home price drop not as severe

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NEW YORK — In another sign the housing crisis could be reaching the bottom, home prices dropped sharply in February but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday showed home prices in 20 major cities tumbled by 18.6 percent from February 2008. That was slightly better than January's 19 percent and the first time since January 2007 the index didn't set a record.

Report: Big banks need extra capital

WASHINGTON — Citigroup and Bank of America will need to raise more capital based on preliminary results of government-run "stress tests," unless they succeed in appealing the findings, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The banks are making their arguments to regulators, said these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have been told not to discuss it. Among their points could be that regulators don't fully understand the banks' operations, they said.

But the companies face an uphill battle in convincing officials that the results are wrong, analysts said.