Stocks finished largely unchanged in lackluster trading Friday as investors remained on the sidelines ahead of next week's flurry of earnings reports, but still pulled off their second-straight weekly gain.
"The bulls really need a breakout here," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. "You've got to make a credible run toward 1,500 [on the S&P 500] and that itself may stampede some money from the sidelines." (Read More: Investors Back Into Stocks? Market Will 'Hit a Brick Wall')
The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 17.21 points to close at 13,488.43, led by Microsoft and Chevron, after crawling along the flatline for most of the session. The blue-chip index traded in a tight 56-point range for most of the day.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, slipped to close near 13.
For the week, the Dow rose 0.40 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.38 percent, and the Nasdaq advanced 0.77 percent. Hewlett-Packard was the best weekly performer on the Dow for the second-straight week, while Bank of America slumped.
Among the key S&P sectors, health care was the best performer for the week, while telecoms slid.
Wall Street got its first look at big bank earnings, with Wells Fargo edging past earnings expectations. Revenue of $21.9 billion was about in line with expectations. However, traders reacted negatively to the report amid disappointment with the profit margin in the bank's lending business. (Read More: 12 Stocks that Beat Earnings 80% of the Time)
"Net interest margin is an ongoing problem for the banking industry," said John Fox, co-manager of the FAM Value Fund. "Low rates have good aspects and bad aspects—it's tough for financial institutions to earn a good return on equity. You're earning less on every dollar."
Boeing fell after the the U.S. Department of Transportation said the jet would be subject to a review of its critical systems by regulators following a series of issues with the aircraft in the last week. Most recently, Boeing's 787 suffered a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan.
Chevron edged higher after the oil giant said it expects fourth-quarter earnings to be "notably higher" than the previous quarter as oil and gas output rebounded.
Best Buy zipped higher to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the consumer electronics retailer showed a small turnaround in U.S. stores, though same-store sales were flat during the holiday season. The company lowered its expectations for free cash flow after it had to pay for some inventory earlier than expected.
Retailer JCPenney tumbled amid concerns about its turnaround plans. UBS downgraded the company to a "sell."
On the economic front, import prices slipped 0.1 percent in December, according to the Labor Department. And the trade deficit unexpectedly increased 16 percent in November to $48.7 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters expected the deficit to decline to $41.3 billion.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
On Tap Next Week:
MONDAY: Fed's Williams speaks, Bernanke speaks, Detroit Auto Show
TUESDAY: PPI, retail sales, Empire state mfg survey, business inventories, Fed's Plosser speaks, credit card default rates reported, Facebook event; Earnings from Lennar
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, CPI, Treasury int'l capital, industrial production, housing market index, oil inventories, Beige Book, Fed's Fisher speaks, OPEC's monthly market report; Earnings from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of NY Mellon, Ebay
THURSDAY: Housing starts, jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet, money supply; Earnings from Bank of America, Citigroup, UnitedHealth, BB&T, BlackRock, American Express, Intel, Capital One
FRIDAY: General Electric, Schlumberger, Morgan Stanley
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