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U.S. stocks closed near the flatline Wednesday but managed to eke further into record territory.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 24 points higher, at an all-time high, and notching a four-day winning streak.
The S&P 500 set all-time intraday highs, along with the Dow shortly after the open, and closed barely above the flatline. The Nasdaq composite lagged, closing about 17 points lower.
"I think what we're seeing here is the market taking a breather," said Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners.
"Think about the massive move we've had over a very short period of time," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "We've has a 7.5 percent move off the lows. ... Eventually, that's going to run out of steam."
The Dow and the S&P closed at record highs on Tuesday, as concerns surrounding Brexit diminished and the prospects of further economic stimulus in Japan increased. The Nasdaq composite, meanwhile, closed in positive territory for 2016 on Tuesday.
"Bottom line, the S&P 500 is 1 percent above where it was 14 months ago and the optimism is back to being exuberant," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a Wednesday note to clients. "Earnings over the next month [will] help determine if all we've seen is a price chase or we are discounting a reversal in the downtrend in earnings."
Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, said "we're stalled at these levels waiting for validation" that earnings will be positive.
Earnings season unofficially began Monday, with Alcoa posting better-than-expected results on both the top and bottom lines. On Thursday and Friday, financial giants BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will report their quarterly results.
"What we have to hear from companies ... is what they see for the end of the year," said Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital. "We cannot count on multiple expansion."
On the data front, U.S. import prices for June rose 0.2 percent, missing estimates, while export prices gained 0.8 percent.
The Federal Reserve released the latest edition of its Beige Book, which said economic activity in most regions increased at a modest pace.
"It had something for everybody," Janney's Luschini said, noting that it showed the economy was growing steadily, but not at a pace where the Fed would feel comfortable raising rates in the near future.
The Fed speakers' parade will also continue Wednesday, with Philadelphia Fed Patrick Harker scheduled to speak after the market closes.
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Wednesday morning he expects "slow" GDP growth in the U.S., adding the central bank is "very sensitive" to the dollar's strength.
On Tuesday, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said the U.S. central bank should not be in a rush to raise interest rates.
Oil fell Wednesday, with U.S. crude settling at a two-month low of $44.75 a barrel. Weighing on crude were U.S. inventories data, which showed crude stocks fall by 2.54 million last week, as well as a build of 1.2 million gasoline barrels.
"When we were going from $30 to $25, oil and stocks were keenly correlated," Wunderlich's Hogan said. "Now with oil around $45 to $50, you can see oil having a bad day ans not adversely affect stocks."
U.S. Treasury yields traded lower, with the 10-year yield holding near 1.46 percent and the two-year yield near 0.66 percent.
The dollar traded about 0.2 percent lower against a basket of currencies, with the euro holding near $1.11 and the around 104.3. The pound traded lower, near $1.32, on David Cameron's last day as the United Kingdom's prime minister.
European equities traded slightly lower on Wednesday, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 index slipping about 0.1 percent. Asian stocks rose broadly, with the Nikkei 225 gaining about 0.8 percent.
About four stocks declined for every three advancers at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 509 million and a composite volume of 2.469 billion in afternoon trade.
The CBOE Volatility index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded lower, near 13.4.
Gold futures for August delivery settled $8.30 higher at $1,343.60 per ounce.
On tap this week:
*Planner subject to change.
Earnings: CSX, Yum Brands
6 p.m. Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker on economy
10:30 p.m. Cleveland Fed's Mester on economy
Earnings: JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Delta Air Lines, Taiwan Semiconductor, Progressive, First Republic Bank
8:30 a.m. Initial claims; PPI
10 a.m. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
11:15 a.m. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart
1:15 p.m. Kansas City Fed's George on economy
7 p.m. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan on economy and policy
Earnings: Citigroup, Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, PNC, Shaw Communications
8:30 a.m. Retail sales, CPI, Empire State survey
9:15 a.m. Industrial production
10 a.m. Consumer sentiment; Business inventories
1:15 p.m. Minneapolis Fed's Kashkari and St. Louis Fed's Bullard in discussion