Ford's loss wasn't as bad as analysts had forecast, and the No. 2 automaker used up much less cash during the first three months of the year than it did in the last three months of 2008. The stock jumped 15 percent.
Otherwise the market's attention was keenly focused on potential news about the "stress tests" the government is giving 19 of the largest U.S. banks. Federal regulators will be doing private briefings with the banks on Friday on how the tests will work.
The tests are designed to determine which banks may need further help from the government, and Wall Street is expecting an announcement from Washington Friday afternoon about the guidelines that will be used in determing which banks are healthy enough to survive in an even worse economic environment.
Even though formal results won't be announced until May 4, investors expect that the disclosure on Friday of the methodology for the tests could shed light on which financial companies might be in trouble and due for more help from the government.