The Dow Jones Industrial Average squeezed out a small gain on the day, as investors weighed the latest round of earnings reports against weakness in European markets.
The blue-chip Dow edged up 7.22 points, or 0.05%, to 13986.52 on Wednesday, after sliding as many as 66 points in the opening minutes of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index inched up 0.83 points, or 0.05%, to 1512.12, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 3.10 points, or 0.10%, to 3168.48.
Telecommunications and utilities stocksâwhich are less exposed to economic swingsâled the day's gains, while the technology and health-care sectors pulled back.
Dow component Walt Disney (DIS)
"At a company level, a lot of the commentary from management is saying that they see signs of improvement," said Owen Fitzpatrick, portfolio manager and head of U.S. large-cap growth equity for DWS Investments, a unit of Deutsche Bank (DBK.XE)
Mr. Fitzpatrick said he was encouraged by the market's resilience lately. Volatility has fallen and investors have shown more interest in stocks, particularly riskier bets on small-capitalization stocks and cyclically-oriented sectors like energy and financial companies.
European markets erased earlier gains to trade broadly lower as lingering worries over political stability in Spain and Italy weighed off against better-than-expected German data. The Stoxx Europe 600 finished with a loss of 0.4%, well off its lows for the day. The German and French stock indexes, however, both closed at their lowest levels of the year.
Asian markets were mostly higher. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average climbed 3.8% to the highest level since September 2008, and the yen fell against the dollar to briefly touch a near three-year low, after Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa offered to step down three weeks before the expiration of his term. Many investors believe that paves the way for accelerated and more aggressive stimulus measures. The yen later pared those losses to edge up on the greenback.
Elsewhere, China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.1%, to notch its eighth straight gain.
There was no major U.S. economic data scheduled for release.
Crude-oil futures reversed morning declines to edge up under 0.1% to $96.62 a barrel, while gold futures inched up 0.3% to $1,677.70 an ounce. The dollar rose against the euro, while demand for Treasurys rose, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year note down to 1.967%.
In other corporate news, Time Warner (TWX)
Ralph Lauren (RL)
C.H. Robinson (CHRW)
Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)
Biogen Idec (BIIB)
Hain Celestial Group (HAIN)
Exchange operator CME Group (CME)
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