U.S. stocks managed a largely flat close Wednesday -- despite disappointing holiday retail news -- as the battered financial sector and energy companies gave a boost to the broader market.
All three major U.S. indexes barely finished positive on a day when a holiday hangover seemed to have infected the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 2.36 points, or 0.02 percent, at 13,551.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 1.21 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,497.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 10.91 points, or 0.40 percent, at 2,724.41.
The S&P moved off its lows when battered bond insurers MBIA and Ambac recovered some of the losses they had posted in recent weeks. Investment banker Bear Stearns also showed gains after British financier increased his stake in the firm.
Oil rose above $96 a barrel before backing off, ahead of a government report expected to show US crude inventories fell for a sixth straight week. Exxon Mobil led energy stocks to the upside, with gains posted also by ConocoPhillips and Total SA.
On the downside, shares dipped substantially for retailers after indications that they were going to suffer this year.
Target issued a Christmas Eve warning after the Monday bell that its same-store sales were likely to miss estimates, and other retailers could follow suit. Target shares dropped, as did those at numerous other retailers.
On Christmas Day, a report by MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse showed retail sales rose 3.6 percent in the holiday season, at the lower end of expectations, helped by a late-season spending surge on some items.
The retail slump added up to a down day for Wall Street, though the news wasn't expected to have much of a spillover effect as the market moves forward.