NEW YORK – Stocks wavered Wednesday amid caution about an upcoming meeting of world leaders and as Europe continues to grapple with government debt problems.
Major indexes pared some of their early losses as technology stocks recovered and energy companies rose along with crude oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 15 points in midday trading. Broader indexes were mixed. Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips were among oil companies that gained around 1 percent.
Stocks got no help from an unexpectedly sharp drop in first-time claims for unemployment benefits as traders instead focused on taking profits before a summit of world leaders. Members of the Group of 20 will be meeting Thursday and Friday in South Korea.
The meeting comes as countries like the U.S. and Japan try to weaken their currency to help stimulate economic growth. A global economic recovery has been slow and many developed countries like the U.S. have struggled to expand fast enough to put a dent in high unemployment rates.
Major European indexes all slid as worries grow about debt problems in Ireland. The euro briefly fell below $1.37 for the first time in three weeks. Concerns about mounting government debt in many European countries have occasionally dragged down stocks around the world throughout the year. Countries like Ireland and Greece are facing rising debt with little signs of growth.
The dollar had been weakening against other currencies in recent weeks because of a recently announced program by the Federal Reserve to buy Treasury bonds in an effort to drive interest rates lower and spark spending and lending.
A weaker currency makes a country's exports cheaper and more attractive overseas. Japan has been especially active in trying to weaken its currency because its economy is so reliant on big exporting companies like Sony Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
The Dow fell 15.90, or 0.1 percent, to 11,330.85 in midday trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.17, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,213.23.
The Nasdaq composite index, focuses on technology stocks, rose 3.33, or 0.1 percent, to 2,566.31.
Uri Landesman, president at Platinum Partners, said Wednesday's pause is natural for a market that has been climbing nearly unchecked since early September. Major indexes have all touched highs for the year in recent days.
Bond yields rose, pushing interest rates higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.74 percent from 2.66 percent late Tuesday.
Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1 percent, Germany's DAX index dropped 1 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 1.5 percent.
In corporate news, General Motors said it earned $2 billion in the third quarter. The big profit came at the right time for the automaker. It is set for an initial public offering next week after struggling through bankruptcy and a government bailout. New car and crossover models and strong sales overseas helped GM.
The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell more than economists' had forecast and reversed a rise reported a week earlier. The claims number came after the government last week said that hiring by private employers rose at its fastest pace in six months.
The unemployment report came out a day earlier than usual because government offices are closed Thursday for Veterans' Day. The stock market will remain open on the holiday.