Jan. 11, 2013 at 4:30 PM ET
Stocks finished largely unchanged in lackluster trading Friday as investors remained on the sidelines ahead of next week's flurry of earnings reports, but still pulled off their second-straight weekly gain.
"The bulls really need a breakout here," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. "You've got to make a credible run toward 1,500 [on the S&P 500] and that itself may stampede some money from the sidelines."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a small gain, led by Microsoft and Chevron after crawling along the flatline for most of the session. The blue-chip index traded in a tight 56-point range for most of the day.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished narrowly mixed. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, slipped to close near 13.
Among key S&P sectors, consumer staples and techs gained, while telecoms and industrials led the laggards.
Wall Street got its first look at big bank earnings, with Wells Fargo posting a quarterly profit of 91 cents a share, two cents ahead of estimates. Revenue of $21.9 billion was about in line with expectations. However, traders reacted negatively to the report, sending shares lower.
"Net interest margin is an ongoing problem for the banking industry," said John Fox, co-manager of the FAM Value Fund. "Low rates have good aspects and bad aspects—it's tough for financial institutions to earn a good return on equity. You're earning less on every dollar."
Other major financials including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup are scheduled to post results throughout next week.
The FAA is expected to launch a safety review of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner following a series of issues with the aircraft in the last week. Most recently, Boeing's 787 suffered a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan.
Chevron edged higher after the oil giant said it expects fourth-quarter earnings to be "notably higher" than the previous quarter as oil and gas output rebounded.
Best Buy jumped to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the consumer electronics retailer posted flat same-store sales during the holiday season. Still, the company lowered its expectations for free cash flow after it had to pay for some inventory earlier than expected.
Yum Brands remained under pressure as the company amid investigations into the company's food supply and expected weak sales in China. Bernstein cut its price target for the company from $85 to $80, and shares were off more than 1 percent in premarket trading.
Retailer JCPenney tumbled amid concerns about its turnaround plans. UBS downgraded the company to a "sell."
On the economic front, import prices slipped 0.1 percent in December, according to the Labor Department. And the trade deficit unexpectedly increased 16 percent in November to $48.7 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters expected the deficit to decline to $41.3 billion.
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