Stocks ended narrowly mixed in lackluster trading Wednesday, but the Dow and S&P 500 still managed to squeeze out small gains, as investors continued to wait for further action from central banks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average squeezed out a gain of 7.04 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 13,175.64.
The S&P 500 added 0.87 points, or 0.06 percent, to finish at 1,402.22. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq slid 4.61 points, or 0.15 percent, to end at 3,011.25.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished near 15.
Among the key S&P sectors, consumer staples gained, while consumer discretionary lagged.
“As long as there’s no major blowup in Europe, [the market] will probably trot on here,” said Yra Harris of Praxis Trading on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “At least we can put to bed the ‘sell in May and go away’ crowd because we’re right back to where we were on April 30.”
Stocks have rallied in the last few sessions amid growing expectations the ECB could act soon to help soothe the euro zone worries. Still, European shares were slightly lower, retreating from the four-month highs hit in the previous session and Spanish 10-year yields briefly crossed above 7 percent.
Meanwhile, Fitch affirmed its'AAA' rating on Germanywith a stable outlook.
“The biggest message is that the ECB is going to come in strong,” said Matt Lloyd, chief investment strategist of Advisors Asset Management, adding that the central bank’s action could help fuel another five-percent rally through the year end. “They’re kicking the can down the road, but will eventually get coordinated and come up with a solution.”
Similarly, Lloyd expects China to come up with a stimulus package to bolster their slowing growth, which will also fuel the global market.
Hewlett-Packard rallied to lead the Dow gainers after the tech giant raised its third-quarter earnings guidance.
Also among techs, Research In Motion jumped after the BlackBerry maker was said to be in talks with Samsung to license the upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform. RIM shares have been bruised in the last year, falling nearly 45 percent year-to-date.
McDonald's posted an unexpected flat same-store sales in July, mostly hurt by Europe.
Among earnings, Disney gained after the conglomerate posted a profit that beat expectations, but revenue was lighter than expected. Still, at least five analysts raised their price targets on the company. (Watch: Disney's CEO Says There's Still 'Room to Increase Pricing')
Macy's rose after the department-store chain reported a higher quarterly profit and boosted its full-year earnings guidance.
Dean Foods surged more than 40 percent to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the food and beverage company topped earnings estimates and announced an IPO for its health-food business, WhiteWave Foods.
Meanwhile, Priceline plunged after the online travel company handed in a disappointing guidancefor the current quarter and after at least 11 analysts lowered their price targets on the firm. Rival Orbitz Worldwide also tumbled after the company reported lower earnings and cut its full-year growth forecast.
NewsCorp is scheduled to post earnings after the closing bell. (Click for full earnings coverage.)
Bloomin’ Brands , the parent company of Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill, soared in its market debut on the Nasdaq. The company priced its IPO at $11 per share, below the expected range of $13 to $15 a share.
On the economic front, productivity rose more than expected in the second quarter, according to the Labor Department.
Weekly mortgage applications slipped last weekamid lower demand for new purchase and refinance loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. (Read More: Late Payments on Mortgages Hit 3-Year Low)
Treasury prices dippedafter the government auctioned $24 billion in 10-year notes at a high yield of 1.680 percent and bid-to-cover of 2.49. The 10-year yield rose 0.014 percentage points to 1.642 percent, hitting its highest since late June.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: International trade, jobless claims, wholesale trade, 30-yr bond auction, Manchester United pricing; Earnings from Advanced Auto Parts, Kohl's, Nordstrom
FRIDAY: Import/export prices, USDA crop production report, Manchester United IPO; Earnings from JCPenney
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