Walll Street fell short in its late-day bid for a rally, ending a ho-hum week in ho-hum fashion as the major indexes finished almost exactly where they began Monday.
Despite some strongly positive news out of technology companies, the market couldn't hold an early rally, sending the Dow lower by about 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq near even. The indexes finished positive by 0.4 percent or less.
Light volume continued to be the story. Despite Friday's letdown, the S&P and the Nasdaq are on pace to complete a sixth straight month of gains.
"The market's kind of continuing to digest what's been going on over the last several weeks," said Richard Sparks, senior analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. "It's just the ebb and flow of the markets."
Consumer weakness brought down a raft of positive news from technology companies.
A revised outlook from Intel helped had lifted tech stocks higher, as it raised its third-quarter forecast on stronger-than-expected demand for its microprocessors and chipsets.
Consumer stocks performed poorly on a set of economic data showing continued weakness in income and spending.
Merck and McDonald's led the losers on the Dow, which fell after posting gains approaching 0.5 percent in the first minutes of trading. Boeing gave back some gains as well, the day after the aerospace company surged on positive news about its Dreamliner aircraft.
Technology stocks had been the lone bright spot, helped by Dell . In after-the-bell earnings Thursday, the computer maker reported a stronger than expected quarterly profit as well as signs that its business is stabilizing.
Marvell Technology also helped offset the damage, posting a revenue drop of nearly 25 percent but raising outlook.
Pharmaceutical stocks besides Merck also were faring poorly, with Bristol-Myers Squibb off more than 2 percent after Morgan Stanley cut the company to "equal weight."
Elsewhere, shares of Ford gained after the automaker said it expected monthly sales to rise for the first time in two years.
Whirlpool shares improved after the appliance maker said it would cut 1,100 jobs and close a refrigerator factory in Evansville, Ill.
Luxury retailer Tiffany reported that its profit fell 30 percent, but that was better than analyst estimates. The earnings beat followed a familiar pattern for the second quarter—strong bottom-line profit yet weak top-line revenue—but the company's shares jumped.
Commodities also were a bright spot. The UBS commodities index rose nearly 1 percent even though oil trading was choppy through the day, with crude prices finally registering a slight gain.
Investors were less enthusiastic about economic news that emphasized tough times for consumers. Government data indicated a 0.2 percent gain in spending in July, helped mostly by the "Cash for Clunkers" auto trade-in program, but no gains in personal income.
The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its final index of confidence for August fell to 65.7 from 66.0 in July,the lowest since April but actually a bit better than expectations and a preliminary reading on the number.
Market breadth was nearly flat, with gainers nudging out losers. Volume was light, with about 1.18 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. There were 64 new highs against just one new low.