U.S. stocks closed narrowly mixed on Wednesday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a new record amid firming oil prices, moderate housing data and some debate over Fed Chair Janet Yellen's congressional testimony.
"I think everybody's mulling what Janet Yellen said yesterday," said Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital said.
The S&P 500 closed down 1.62 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,113.86, after hitting a new intraday all-time high, with consumer discretionary leading all sectors and utilities the biggest loser.
The Nasdaq tried to touch the key 5,000 level, but failed to do so, closing 0.98 points down at 4,967.14. Apple closed down 3.38 points, or 2.56 percent, at $128.79 per share, off highs of $133 a share.
Yellen's remarks to the Senate on Tuesday were mostly dovish but added little weight on either side to analyst expectations on the timing of an interest rate hike.
Stocks briefly traded higher to new intraday highs after the Fed chair reiterated her remarks on Wednesday in front of the House Financial Services Committee.
"Markets have a history of rallying when (Yellen) speaks," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. Stocks gained 12 of the last 13 times Yellen or the Federal Reserve made a major announcement prior to Wednesday's testimony, according to Frederick's historical analysis.
Stocks were little changed after morning housing data and earnings.
fell a less-than-expected 0.2 percent to 481,000 and supply rose to its highest level since 2010, hopeful signs for the sluggish housing market.
Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said out in a note that the new home sales for January were "mediocre." The reported level was the best since the middle of 2008 but below the 30-year average of 710,000.
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The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that weekly crude inventories rose 8.4 million barrels, more than expected. The figures were in-line with Tuesday's American Petroleum Institute report of 8.9 million barrels.
Crude oil futures settled up $1.71, or 3.47 percent, to $50.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its best day since Feb. 12. Brent crude traded near $62 a barrel.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending Feb. 20 from the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported early on Wednesday.
Existing home sales for January reported on Monday slumped to the lowest level in nine months amid a shortage of properties in the market.
On Tuesday, the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 cities increased by a greater-than-expected 4.5 percent in December from the same period last year.
"Housing has not been all that strong," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout. "That's going to potentially cause the Fed to play a bit of a waiting game."
He also cautioned that earnings expectations are deteriorating for the first half of 2015, despite good fourth-quarter reports from some retailers this week.
Hewlett-Packard reported adjusted earnings of 92 cents per share, a penny above estimates. However, revenue was below forecasts, and HP gave lighter than expected guidance due to significant negative impact from a stronger dollar
Target posted earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street expectations Wednesday, sending shares higher in premarket trading.
Campbell Soup matched estimates with adjusted quarterly profit of 66 cents per share, while revenue was above analyst forecasts. The company did say its gross margins were disappointing and below its expectations.
Dollar Tree earned an adjusted $1.16 per share for its latest quarter, beating estimates by 1 cent, with revenue also above consensus. Comparable store sales were up 5.6 percent during the quarter.
Lowe's posted quarterly earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street expectations Wednesday, sending shares higher in premarket trading. The company posted earnings of 46 cents a share on revenue of $12.54 billion.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 14.
Nine stocks advanced for every seven decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 704 million and a composite volume of 3.29 billion, below this year's high of 4.6 billion.
The U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield traded near 1.97 percent. The U.S. dollar edged lower against major world currencies.
Gold futures settled up $7.20 to $1,204.50 an ounce.
European equities ended lower on Wednesday as investors focused on a slew of corporate earnings and a continued dovish tone from Yellen's second day of testimony.
Asian stocks closed narrowly mixed in the first day of trade after the Lunar New Year, despite HSBC flash PMI that showed expansion in China for the first time in four months.
U.S. stocks climbed to new records on Tuesday amid Yellen's remarks to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
—CNBC.com contributed to this report.
On tap this week:
Earnings: L Brands, Liberty Media,Salesforce.com, Transocean, Workday
Earnings: A-B InBev, Kohl's, Chico's FAS,SeaWorld, Autodesk, Gap, Ross Stores, United Health Services, Herbalife, JCPenney, Live Nation Ent., Splunk, Weight Watchers
8:30 a.m.: CPI
8:30 a.m.: Durable Goods orders
9:00 a.m.: FHFA Home Price Index
10:30 a.m.: Natural gas inventories
11:00 a.m.: Kansas City Manufacturing Index
12:40 p.m.: Fed's Lockhart speaks
1:00 p.m.: Seven-year note auction
4:30 p.m.: Fed balance sheet/money supply
8:30 a.m.: GDP
9:45 a.m.: Chicago PMI
10:00 a.m.: Consumer Sentiment
10:00 a.m.: Pending Home Sales
10:15 a.m.: Fed's Dudley speaks
10:15 a.m.: Fed's Mester speaks
1:30 p.m.: Fed's Fischer speaks
3:00 p.m.: Farm prices
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