Stocks faded in the final minutes of trading to close mixed Thursday, but the Dow still managed to snap a six-day losing streak. Still, investors continued to be cautious amid ongoing uncertainty in the euro zone and techs dragged following Cisco's disappointing outlook.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a small gain of 19.98 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 12,855.04, snapping a six-day losing streak. Pfizer and Chevron led the blue-chip gainers, while Cisco dragged.
The S&P 500 edged up 3.41 points, or 0.25 percent, to end at 1,357.99. The Nasdaq slipped 1.07 points, or 0.04 percent, to finish at 2,933.64.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended near 19.
Most key S&P sectors ended higher, led by utilities and financials, while techs lagged. (Read More: Global Slowdown Spells Trouble for Tech Sector)
Stocks were initially lifted following news that weekly claims for unemployment benefits edged down 1,000 last weekto a seasonally adjusted 367,000, according to the Labor Department.
“We’re seeing a bit of calm in Europe, the euro has gained strength against the dollar, and unemployment claims helped to assuage fears of a major stalling,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. “But the events in Europe are going to be episodic and we’re just waiting for the next piece of news.”
European markets turned higher amid hopes that Greek leaders could form a coalition government and shore up its commitment to remain in the euro zone. But should those talks fail, the country will likely revert to a technocratic government until new elections can be held.
On Wednesday, euro zone governments agreed to make a 5.2 billion euro payment($6.72 billion) in emergency aid to Greece, despite opposition from some member states.
Stocks have been whipsawed in the last week over ongoing political unrest in the euro zone. The Dow has plunged 444 points in the last six sessions, its longest losing streak since last August.
“When market moves based on rumor, it is emblematic of a very nervous market,” said Krosby of the recent volatile trading sessions. “But at the same time, a credible announcement could change the tone of a market for a longer period…that’s why this is very much a trader’s market—it’s both dangerous to be in this market as it is to be out.”
Cisco Systems tumbled after the tech bellwether posted guidance that disappointedWall Street. The Dow component reported higher-than-expected earnings but said the latter half of the year was "really hard to read" as customers were more cautious about Europe. At least 10 brokerages cut their price targets.
Cisco's downbeat forecast weighed on other tech stocks including Salesforce.com , Juniper and NetApp .
News Corp. rallied after the media giant reported results that topped forecasts and also announced a $5 billion stock buyback program. But analysts were mixed on the stock—BMO raised its price target on the firm to $21 from $19, while Lazard cut its price target to $25 from $25.
Sony said it expected to return to profitabilityin the current fiscal year, as its consumer electronics and components businesses recover. Sony has posted losses for four straight years.
Windstream plunged to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the telephone company announced lower-than-expected results and handed in a disappointing quarterly guidance.
Kohl's slipped after the department-store chain reported a sharp decline in earnings as its gross margin was hurt by price cuts. Nordstrom is scheduled to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.
SunTrust Banks is in talks to sell its asset management unit RidgeWorth Investments, sources close to the situation told Reuters. SunTrust unsuccessfully tried to sell the unit two years ago.
On the M&A front, Cotysweetened its bidfor Avon Products , but said it would withdraw its offer if Avod did not enter into discussions by next Monday.
Also on the economic front, the U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in March to $51.8 billion, the biggest gain in nearly a year, according to the Commerce Department. And import prices fell 0.5 percent, according to the Labor Department, logging their largest drop in 10 months.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the banking system and the financial sector have improved significantlybut still have "more to do" to restore health, in prepared remarks to a Chicago banking conference. However, he did not discuss monetary policy in the speech.
Treasury prices pared their lossesafter the government auctioned $16 billion in 30-year bonds at a high yield of 3.09 percent and bid-to-cover of 2.73
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
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