Stock sell-offs abound today upon news of October's plunging consumer confidence levels. The Conference Board's index fell to 79.4 from September's 93.3 -- the lowest level in nine years.

The drop fueled expectations that the Fed will cut interest rates yet again when it meets Nov. 6. But the jury's still out until employment and manufacturing numbers come in Friday.

The Dow dipped, then rallied to finish the day even; the Naz dropped 1.16%; and the S&P 500 slipped 0.91%. With little confidence in itself, the FOOL 50 fell 0.79%.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

The Case for an AOL Spinoff

Steve Case is ready to go back to the future. Nearly two years after the merger between America Online and Time Warner, The Wall Street Journal reports Case would like to annul the marriage and once again head up an independent AOL.

AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) has lost over half its value since the merger, and company executives have placed most of the blame on the America Online division. The advertising market crash, slowing subscriber growth, and an SEC investigation have combined to take the swagger out of the once-mighty unit.

The Journal says it's not clear if Case is serious about wanting to break up the company, or if he's just expressing frustration. It may not matter either way, as top executives -- many of whom want to see Case ousted as chairman -- reportedly have no interest in a spinoff.

While the next few weeks should be interesting, this whole episode points to continuing turmoil in the company's upper echelons. Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin and AOL COO Robert Pittman have departed under pressure. Other executives are still pointing fingers and shuffling blame. Vice Chairman Ted Turner, who has lost a fortune as the largest shareholder, is extremely unhappy and wants to see Case removed.

It's apparent something has to give. The merger has been a disaster, and things aren't going to improve without cooperation at the top. A spinoff would be an extremely complicated process, but it just might be the best medicine for this ailing giant.

Quote of Note

"If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German spiritual writer

Not Banking Online Yet?

Has the lure of insta-loans, mortgage quotes, and insurance deals wooed you into the futuristic world of online banking yet? If you're like most people (OK, like one Fool writer, at least), the day you ran out of paper checks seemed like the perfect time to take your banking online.

A Jupiter Research survey of nearly 4,000 online banking customers confirms that simple bookkeeping (check writing, balance transfers) is the real siren song for most digi-banking customers.

The study, quoted by CBS Marketwatch, reports that completely automated transactions, such as checking account balances and transferring funds between accounts, are the most popular online banking services. Jupiter forecasts that 95% of online banking customers will check account balances next year, 57% will transfer funds, and about 40% will pay their bills using the services. (Last year, about 27% of customers took advantage of online bill paying.) Forecasts for more sophisticated services are even brighter: Jupiter estimates that 26% of customers will apply for a credit card next year (19% did this year), and 12% will apply for a loan, compared to 7% who actually did this year and in 2001.

Of the nearly 90% of households with a bank account, about one-quarter currently take advantage of some online banking features. By 2007, the report forecasts that half of us will be balancing virtual checkbooks.

If you aren't sold yet, consider this: According to a report earlier this year by the MIT Sloan School of Management, the cost of processing a single check ranges from $1 to $5. And if accuracy keeps you from going electronic, consider that there are, on average, five different transactions between the time you write a check and when you get it back. On top of that, a Federal Reserve study found that the direct cost to society is $1.25 per check.

If you love the conveniences of old-fashioned checking, then find a bank with physical branches, convenient ATMs, and a 24-hour, toll-free customer service number. Use our handy checklist of banking features to compare offerings. And then check in with the Fools who have test-driven various services on our Online Banking discussion board.

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Pepsi Looks for Green

Feeling blue over Pepsi(NYSE: PEP) Blue? Bland over Vanilla Coke(NYSE: KO)? Seeing red over recent Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew fizz tints? The soda fountain world is about to add another shade to its color wheel, as 7 UP rolls out green-colored dnL next week.

Flip your monitor upside down and you'll see that dnL, in fact, spells 7 UP. Clever, eh? While the original un-cola prided itself as a refreshing, caffeine-free alternative, dnL flips that on its head with a caffeine-rich pop of carbonated fruit flavors.

Can't wait to try it? Head over to eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY), where the first 31 cases off the production line will go to the highest bidders. Will dnL team up with Marvel(NYSE: MVL) for the summer release of The Hulk? Don't put it past the beverage giants, whose marketing departments are working overtime with an onslaught of new product rollouts. Coke has sold 60 million cases of Vanilla Coke in its first five months

From vitamin-enriched water to new soda flavors, Coke and Pepsi continue to target young drinkers with trendy beverages. However, now it seems the battle for market share is being fought on smaller, niche-friendly fields. One thing's for sure -- dnL isn't the only brand looking to make green in the soft-drink wars.

Discussion Board of the Day: PepsiCo

Miss the taste of Crystal Pepsi? Clearly, the soda giants are banking on nickel-and-diming market share through the introduction of new flavors like Vanilla Coke and Pepsi Blue. Who stands to gain the most? All this and more -- in the PepsiCo discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

Has the Tide turned for Procter & Gamble(NYSE: PG)? The consumer nondurables giant posted better-than-expected results on a robust 11% uptick in sales. Given static shopping habits, reporting $10.8 billion in revenue is no easy feat. The top-line surge suggests the company was able to wrestle away even more market share for its many leading product lines.

When an Internet-dependent company posts a deficit, it's a net loss, on different levels. Internet service provider EarthLink(Nasdaq: ELNK) narrowed that net loss while growing revenue. ISPs have been banking on upgrading dial-up modem users to broadband, which has proven successful for EarthLink. With a 68% surge in broadband subscribers over the past year, the company achieved 681,000 users. For the full year, EarthLink looks to record a loss no greater than $0.25 a share on $1.4 billion in revenue.

Whassup, Omnicom(NYSE: OMC)? The advertising agency that brought you the Anheuser-Busch(NYSE: BUD) "Whassup?" campaign knows what's up -- earnings. The marketing specialist grew its bottom line by 11% in the third quarter for a $0.68-a-share showing, as worldwide revenue soared by 13% to $1.8 billion. The meat of the company's growth came from a 19% spurt in domestic ad work, indicating the once moribund ad market is starting to show definite signs of life.

Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q) combed through its numbers and will restate its financials (remember the improperly recognized $531 million?). The company is also writing down the value of its telephone and fiber optics network by a whopping $11 billion.

And Finally...

Today on Tom Jacobs explains why one size doesn't fit all when it comes to stock.... It's a stock-picker's market, and Matt Richey has some ideas for you.... In Fool's School, tips to help stick to a budget.... The Fool Community discusses the outlook for Siebel.... And the Post of the Day: a Marine Corps marathon report.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim