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S&P 500 Is Little Changed, Hovering Near 5-Year High

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages were little changed during a volatile session on Friday as financial stocks were big drag after Wells Fargo (WFC) kicked off bank earnings with mixed results.

Policy news was also mixed Friday with China's faster-than-expected inflation pointing to a smaller chance of stimulus from the world's second-largest economy. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly deteriorated.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 17 points, or 0.13%, to 13,488. The index added 0.4% for the week.

Breadth was even on the blue-chip index. The sharpest percentage decliners were Boeing (BA), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Bank of America (BAC) and Pfizer (PFE)

Boeing shares fell Friday as the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to review the design, manufacture and assembly of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing's Dreamliner suffered a series of mishaps this week. Shares tumbled 1.9%.

Blue-chip gainers included Chevron (CVX), Merck (MRK) and Microsoft (MSFT)

Chevron shares rose 1.1% after the company said Thursday that fourth-quarter earnings would be "notably higher" than third-quarter profit, getting a lift from bigger gains on asset sales and more oil and gas production.

American Express (AXP) shares edged higher by 0.7%. The global-payments company said Thursday it was cutting 5,400 jobs, or about 8.5% of its workforce, and would take fourth-quarter restructuring charges of $742 million.

The S&P 500 closed down incrementally at 1,472 after soaring to a five-year high Thursday. The S&P gained 0.4% in the week's five trading sessions. The Nasdaq settled down 4 points, or 0.1%, to 3,126. The tech-heavy index climbed 0.8% for the week.

The biggest sector decliners in the broad market Friday were basic materials, capital goods and financials. Technology shares led industries trading higher.

Volumes totaled 3.33 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.77 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers overtook decliners by a small 1.1-to-1 ratio on the Big Board and incrementally on the Nasdaq.

The major indices remained in the green for the week.

"We think we can probably move up another couple percent," said Mark Newton, Greywolf chief technical analyst, of the short-term market action. "We are certainly starting to get stress on a lot of the indices, but it still looks a little early to sell into this."

Wells Fargo reported better-than-expected earnings of $5.1 billion on revenue of $21.9 billion, beating adjusted estimates of $4.82 billion and $21.3 billion, respectively. However, the net interest margin narrowed 10 basis points, missing some estimates. Shares fell 0.9%.

The Census Bureau reported Friday that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $48.7 billion in November from a revised $42.1 billion in October. The prior October deficit estimate was $42.2 billion.

Economists, on average, were expecting a deficit of $41.3 billion for November.

"The wider than expected trade gap in November suggests net exports will be a noticeable drag on Q4 real GDP rather than providing a small boost," said RBS economists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that December import prices, excluding oil, fell 0.1% in December after declining 0.2% in November. Export prices, excluding the agriculture component, dropped 0.2% after November was revised to a decrease of 0.8% from a decline of 0.7%.

The Treasury Department reported Friday that the U.S. government ran a budget deficit of $260 million in December. Its monthly budget report for November showed a deficit of $172.1 billion.

Gold for February delivery dropped Friday by $17.40 to settle at $1,660.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts lost 26 cents to finish at $93.56 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury increased 10/32 to lower the yield to 1.866%. The dollar was down 0.34%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

J.C. Penney (JCP) shares tumbled 4.7% after UBS downgraded the stock to "sell" from "neutral" amid concerns about the company's turnaround plans.

Ford (F) said it plans to hire 2,200 workers in 2013 to fill jobs in areas such as product development, manufacturing and IT, as the automaker expands its product lineup of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The stock has been added to Goldman Sachs' "conviction-buy" list, with an analyst citing North America pickup demand opportunities and "tailwinds" in Europe from aggressive OEM restructuring plans. Shares added 1.2%.

Research In Motion (RIMM) shares rebounded 14% after sliding, as Blackberry users complained about connection problems.

Best Buy (BBY) shares surged 16% after the electronics retailer announced a smaller-than-expected slump in holiday same-store sales as U.S. sales improved.

General Mills (GIS) shares slid 2.4% after Goldman Sachs downgraded the food stock to "sell," citing an overextended product portfolio.

Apple's (AAPL) Phil Schiller, the tech giant's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, reportedly nixed rumors about a cheaper iPhone in an interview with The Shanghai Evening News. Shares were off 0.6% on Friday.

-- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.



>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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