Stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) see-sawed around break-even this morning as any decline was limited by a higher-than-expected reading on Chicago-area manufacturing.

Business activity in the Chicago region expanded far more than expected in December. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its business barometer rose to 60, hitting its highest level in nearly four years. This figure was much better than the expected reading of 55, reports Ryan Vlastelica for Reuters . The gain in the reading was attributed to the Employment Index part of the number. The Employment Index vaulted to 51.2 from November’s 41.9 – that was the highest since November 2007 and the first time it has been in expansionary territory (above 50) since then.

Crude oil rose for a sixth consecutive day, extending its longest rally since October. Crude oil followed heating oil higher as heating oil prices climbed on forecasts for colder weather in the United States over the next two-week period, reported Margot Habiby for Bloomberg. Gains have been tempered though by ample supplies of distillates. [For more stories on oil, see our oil category.] The United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) is up about 0.5% this morning.

Eyes were on financial stocks this morning as GMAC Financial Services is close to receiving a third round of bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury. Hibah Yousuf of CNNMoney reports that GMAC will receive $3.5 billion of additional aid on top of the $13.5 billion already received since December 2008. [For more stories on the financial sector, see our financial category.] The Vanguard Financials ETF (NYSEArca: VFH) is lower by 0.35% this morning.

Tony D’Altorio contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.

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