Mixed signals about Americans' buying power ahead of the holiday shopping season left stocks little changed Wednesday, although strong earnings from Dell Inc. (DELL) sent tech stocks climbing.

Dell's results suggested to investors that that demand for computers is high, but a dip in the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey made some on Wall Street wary that people might be more careful about spending as holiday shopping begins. The damage from the survey was muted, however, by falling oil prices.

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After several weeks of record highs in the Dow Jones industrials, due largely to cheaper oil, big acquisitions and strong company earnings, any signs of sagging consumer spending during the holidays could be the stock market's wake-up call to a slowing economy. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic growth.

"These stocks have had such strong moves — if you hear of any kind of weakness, that (retail) sales weren't as good as anticipated, I think the stocks will get hit a bit here," said Prudential Equity Group strategist Steven DeSanctis.

The Dow rose 5.36, or 0.04 percent, to 12,326.95, after slipping from a new trading high of 12,361.00 earlier.

Broader stock indicators were also higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up 3.28, or 0.23 percent, at 1,406.09, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 11.14, or 0.45 percent, at 2,465.98.

Wall Street has slowed its upward climb this week in light pre-Thanksgiving trading volume. U.S. stock markets are closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, and open Friday for an abbreviated session.

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