updated 11/17/2010 5:38:54 PM ET 2010-11-17T22:38:54

Stocks ended mixed Wednesday as concerns that Ireland will need outside help to repay its debts were coupled with a steep drop in housing construction in the U.S.

Global stock markets have been rattled over the past week out of fear that Ireland will become the latest European country to need a bailout. Greece was rescued in May after it became unable to contain runaway spending and lost the confidence of investors. Ireland is now struggling after a collapse in its housing market forced the country to take over three large banks.

Major Market Indices

Britain, which is not part of the 16-nation bloc that uses the euro, offered Wednesday to provide additional support to Ireland beyond what it gets from the European Union or the International Monetary Fund. That helped steady markets in Europe. The Euro Stoxx 50, which tracks blue chip companies within the euro zone, rose 0.5 percent.

Construction of new homes fell 11.7 percent in October, the Commerce Department reported. Construction of new apartments fell by more than 40 percent. Homebuilders including DH Horton Inc. and PulteGroup Inc. fell.

Story: U.S. consumer prices higher in October

Retail stocks were among the few industries that posted gains. Target Corp.'s shares rose 3.9 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts' forecasts. Competitors Costco Wholesale Corp., Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penny Co. each rose by 2 percent or more.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15.62, or 0.1 percent, to 11,007.88. The S&P 500 rose 0.25, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,178.59. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index rose 6.17, or 0.3 percent, to 2,476.01

Seven out of the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 fell. Companies in the consumer discretionary, energy and healthcare businesses were the only groups to post gains. Financial companies fell the most, with a 0.6 percent drop.

Quotes delayed 15+ min.

McDonald's Corp gained 1.2 percent to become the top performing stock among the 30 companies that make up the Dow. Home Depot fell 2.8 percent as the index's laggard.

Bond prices traded in a tight range. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to at 2.87 percent from 2.85 percent late Tuesday. Its yield is used as a benchmark for interest rates on mortgages and other consumer and corporate loans.

The dollar fell 0.2 percent against an index of six currencies.

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