Stocks End Flat, Post Gain for Week

Stocks closed flat in light trading Friday as many traders took the day off, and those who were at work sifted through the first few quarterly earnings scorecards while looking ahead to next week's full flood of company reports.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average (search) dipped 5.33 points, or 0.06 percent, to 9,674.68, according to the latest data. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) was off 0.67 points, or 0.06 percent, at 1,038.06 while the technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) rose 3.41 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,915.31.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.07 percent, while the S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1.85 percent. The Dow was higher for the eight time in the last 10. The Nasdaq and S&P were up seven of the past nine weeks.

General Electric (GE) weighed on the Dow after the conglomerate posted third-quarter earnings in line with analysts' estimates but cut its fourth-quarter earnings guidance, blaming weak demand for gas turbines and higher costs at its plastics division.

"Nobody's around," said Sean Martin, head trader at A. Gary Shilling & Co. "We've had a nice run and people are taking a breather. You're probably seeing one of the quietest days we've had in months."

Market activity was muted during Friday's session as many traders took the day off ahead of the Columbus Day holiday Monday, when the bond market will be closed. The stock market will be open for a regular session Monday.

Analysts said the market is catching its breath after the recent run-up in stock prices.

"We've had a pretty good surge, actually quite an impressive surge," said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist for Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Conn. "Once you punch out to new record highs you're vulnerable to pulling back, consolidation and a taking a little bit of a rest."

Russ Koesterich, strategist at State Street Corp. in Boston, said investors were hesitant to put money in stocks until more companies had reported third-quarter earnings and updated their outlooks for the rest of the year.

"We're caught in a tight range today," Koesterich said. "There was a lot of disappointment that we couldn't hold on to gains yesterday following positive job numbers and results from Yahoo."

Semiconductor stocks rose after Deutsche Bank Securities raised its ratings on Texas Instruments and Intel Corp.

Intel (INTC) rose 66 cents to $30.43, or 2.2 percent, while Texas Instruments (TXN) gained 49 cents, or 2 percent, to $25.48. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index rose 1.17 percent.

Computer Associates International (CA) took a hit after Moody's Investors Service on Thursday said it cut the software vendor's short- and long-term debt ratings, citing a lack of clarity in the company's recognition of revenue. Its shares fell $2.45, or 9.4 percent, to $23.50.

Network gear maker Juniper Networks Inc. (JNPR) slipped despite reporting unexpectedly strong results on improved spending by telecommunications carriers. Its shares fell 78 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $17.62.

GE, which reported its earnings and outlook before the opening bell, fell 81 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $29.32. GE also said it agreed to buy British medical firm Amersham Plc as it seeks to boost growth.

Jet Blue (JBLU) fell $2.75, or 3.9 percent, to $67.51 after UBS Warburg cut its guidance to investors to "reduce" from "neutral."

Ahead of the open, the Labor Department (search) reported the cost of food pushed wholesale prices up an unexpectedly big 0.3 percent in September, well above economists forecasts for an unchanged reading. Stripping out the rise in food prices and a small gain in energy costs, wholesale prices were unchanged, below economists' expectations for a 0.1 percent rise.

The U.S. trade deficit also shrank unexpectedly for a fifth straight month to $39.2 billion, as imports of cars and auto parts fell to a 20-month low.

"Putting these two reports together, it's another sign that the economic recovery is gaining momentum," said Phil Flynn, vice president and senior market analyst with Alaron Trading Corp.

Volume was moderate as 1.11 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.46 billion changed hands on the Nasdaq. Advancers outnumbered decliners by about 6 to 5 on the NYSE but decliners outnumbered gainers 17 to 15 on the Nasdaq.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, fell 2.28, or 0.4 percent, to 519.06.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 2.4 percent higher Friday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 closed down 0.6 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 finished 0.1 percent lower and Germany's DAX index fell 0.3 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.