Skip to main content

Updated from 4:07 p.m. EDT

Blue chips closed with slight gains, but tech stocks slipped Wednesday as volatile oil prices and soft earnings at

Time Warner


made for erratic trading.


Dow Jones Industrial Average


added 13.85 points, or 0.13%, to 10,697.59, and the

S&P 500


tacked on 0.92 points, or 0.07%, to 1245.04. The

Nasdaq Composite


lost 1.34 points, or 0.06%, to 2216.81.

The 10-year Treasury was up 10/32 to yield 4.29%, while the dollar fell against the yen and euro.

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

"Over the last several days, the market has been resilient to the higher energy prices," said Brian Williamson, equity trader with Boston Company Asset Management. "It's showing strength, albeit mildly today, after more earnings strength. Trading was choppy, but we continue to see upside."

About 1.51 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

, with decliners beating advancers by a 6-to-5 margin. Trading volume on the Nasdaq was 1.80 billion shares, with decliners outpacing advancers 3 to 2.

"The market has stayed on a solid footing," said Jay Suskind, head of institutional equity trading with Ryan Beck & Co. "I think we'll see light volumes from here until Friday's nonfarm payrolls data. It's still a solid earnings season with good economic data."

The Dow finished positive with help from


, which gained 1.6%, as well as



SBC Communications

, both finishing 1.2% higher. The Dow's main drags were

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report

, down 1.4%, as well as


(HON) - Get Honeywell International Inc. Report



(MMM) - Get 3M Company Report

, both falling 0.9%.

"Every market needs a breather, which is what it looks like today," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist with Spencer Clarke. "Oil prices above $62 as well as a bit of a decline in the dollar contributed to the slightly negative tone."

Oil spent much of the morning above $62 following a mixed report on U.S. fuel inventories. The Energy Department said gasoline inventories were down by 4 million barrels in the latest week, while distillate stores rose by 1.5 million barrels and crude stocks were up by 200,000 barrels.

Oil finished Wednesday's session down $1.03 to $60.86 a barrel.

"Investors continue to wonder at what level energy costs will negatively impact the economy and equity prices," Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial, said.

Elsewhere, the Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing services index fell to 60.5 for July. Economists expected a small dip to 62.0 from a reading of 62.2 in June.

Stronger sectors Wednesday included utilities, energy, technology and software. Health care, industrials, homebuilding, transportation and semiconductors were among the weaker-performing areas.

In corporate news, Time Warner announced a $321 million loss in its second quarter, reflecting a $3 billion legal reserve and a roughly $1 billion gain from the sale of


(GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report

stock. Most of the charge will be allocated to a $2.4 billion settlement with shareholders stemming from the AOL merger.

Adjusting results to exclude discontinued operations and one-time items, Time Warner earned 18 cents a share in the latest quarter, a penny short of estimates. Second-quarter sales fell 1% from last year to $10.7 billion, reflecting strong results in the company's movie division last year and the end of the


television show. Time Warner lost 15 cents, or 0.9%, to $17.27.

In M&A activity,


is purchasing rival


( RBK) for $3.8 billion, or $59 a share in cash, a 34% premium over Reebok's close Tuesday. The combined company would still be second to


(NKE) - Get NIKE, Inc. Class B Report

in the sporting goods industry, but would hold a 20% market share. Reebok surged 30%, up $13.19 to $57.14.


(CI) - Get Cigna Corporation Report

second-quarter earnings rose 42% from last year to $720 million, or $5.48 a share, on an 11% decline in revenue to $4.11 billion. Adjusted earnings of $1.98 a share were 28% higher than analysts expected. Cigna gained $7.17, or 6.6%, to $115.57.


(CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report

said second quarter earnings rose 17% from a year ago to $275.9 million, or 33 cents a share, beating estimates by 2 cents. The company said it finished remodeling all the Eckerd branches it acquired from

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get J. C. Penney Company, Inc. Report

. CVS fell 48 cents, or 1.5%, to $30.77.

Duke Energy's

(DUK) - Get Duke Energy Corporation Report

second-quarter earnings were $309 million, or 32 cents a share, down from $432 million, or 45 cents a share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings of 30 cents a share were 8 cents light. Duke Energy was lower by 10 cents, or 0.3%, to close at $29.66.

Late Tuesday, Chinese Web portal


(NTES) - Get NetEase Inc. Report

reported a second-quarter profit of $29.3 million, or 83 cents an American depositary share, jumping from $11.9 million, or about 36 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 90.2% to $50.4 million from last year's quarter. Analysts forecast earnings of 66 cents on sales of $44.3 million. The stock jumped $12.81, or 21.5%, to $72.51.


(RNWK) - Get RealNetworks, Inc. Report

finished 7.9% higher after the company said it earned $4.7 million, or 3 cents a share, in the second quarter, reversing the year-ago loss of $4.6 million, or 3 cents a share. Revenue rose to $82.7 million from the year-ago $65.5 million. Analysts expected a break-even quarter on revenue of $81 million. RealNetworks also announced a $75 million stock buyback. Shares were up 40 cents to $5.45.

Also after the bell Tuesday,


( BRCDE) warned that its third-quarter revenue will be $121 million to $122 million, while its loss under generally accepted accounting principles will be 3 cents to 4 cents a share. The GAAP number will include charges totaling around 4 cents a share. Brocade would report adjusted results in a range around the break-even line to a profit of about 1 cent a share.

Brocade faced three separate downgrades Wednesday, from AG Edwards, Bear Stearns and JMP Securities. Brocade dropped 53 cents, or 11.8%, to $3.96.

Morgan Stanley downgraded

National Semiconductor


to equal weight from overweight, as the stock has reached the firm's $25 target. The firm believes that given the current valuation, it will be difficult for National Semiconductor to continue to outperform. Shares fell 81 cents, or 3.2%, to $24.90.

A day after

Sirius Satellite

(SIRI) - Get Sirius XM Holdings, Inc. Report

reported a second-quarter loss, the stock was upgraded to outperform from peer perform by Bear Stearns. The firm also set a $9 stock price target. Sirius added 20 cents, or 3%, to $6.95.

In other economic news, the Mortgage Bankers Association says new mortgage applications were roughly unchanged last week despite a rise in the average 30-year lending rate to 5.83% from 5.72%. On a seasonally adjusted basis, refinancings fell 3% in the week ended July 29 from the prior week.

Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 up 0.1% to 5332 and Germany's Xetra DAX losing 0.2% to 4923. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.4% overnight to 11,982, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2% to 15,119.

To view Gregg Greenberg's video take on today's market, click here