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Stock Market Today: Stocks Turn Positive Though Upside Remains Limited

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Markets took a turn upward in the afternoon session Friday, though closing with only minor gains, after spending much of the day mixed.

Wells Fargo (WFC) kicked off bank earnings but failed to move markets higher. The bank reported a second quarter which met expectations but did not increase earnings, the first time it has failed to do so in 18 quarters.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.17% higher to 16,943.58. The S&P 500 added 0.15% to 1,967.55. The Nasdaq climbed 0.44% to 4,415.49, buoyed by gains in Internet names such as Amazon (AMZN), up 5.6%, eBay  (EBAY), up 2.3%, and Google  (GOOGL), up 1.1%.

Amazon was gaining on news the online retail giant had sought permission from the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption on drone-testing limitations. Amazon aims to have Prime Air, its beta drone delivery service, in operation as soon as 2015.

European markets stabilized to close higher. A day earlier, international markets tumbled with fears sparked by a missed debt service payment by a parent company of Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo. Portugal's second-largest bank by market value reassured the markets late Thursday that potential losses resulting from its exposure to Espirito Santo Group will not compromise its compliance with regulatory capital requirements.

U.S. markets climbed out of session lows by market close in the previous session, but stayed in the red for the day.

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"The equity market remains remarkably resilient, in our view, with the S&P 500 up 6.2% so far this year," noted Gina Martin Adams, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. "As the market continues to normalize with the deceleration in Fed intervention, we continue to believe dispersion among sectors should rise," she added. Adams sees breakouts in integrated the oil and gas, and tobacco sectors; a breakdown in banks; and a break-up in Internet stocks.

With the markets steadfast in the face of contagion fears, investors are now looking to second-quarter earnings season for the next set of potential catalysts. S&P Capital IQ reported that S&P 500 earnings growth is expected to come in at 6.5% year over year, with EPS of $28.67 for the second quarter. Only 25 companies have reported earnings results for the second quarter so far, with 16 of those companies beating analysts' estimates, seven missing, and two inline.

Chevron  (CVX) said earnings for the second quarter are expected to rise from the first quarter because of gains on asset sales. Shares were sliding 1.4% to $128.47.

Tobacco company Reynolds American (RAI) confirmed it is in discussions with Lorillard (LO) to purchase the smaller rival, though both companies said there was no guarantee a deal would come to fruition. Reynolds slipped 0.82%, while Lorillard gained 4.6%.

Gap (GPS) was slipping 0.78% after reporting that its same-store sales dipped 2% last month, missing expectations of a 0.7% increase.

One quarter of S&P 500 companies are due to report next week, including Citigroup (C) before the bell Monday morning.

-- By Keris Alison Lahiff and Andrea Tse in New York.

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