NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks finished higher Wednesday (barely) for the second day in a row as M&A zeal and recent retail earnings lifted market sentiment, though weakened energy stocks dashed any hopes of a more extensive rally.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

gained 10 points, or 0.1%, to 10,416. The

S&P 500

finished 2 points higher, or 0.2%, at 1094, while the

Nasdaq

went ahead by 6 points, or 0.3%, at 2216.

U.S. stocks pared losses by the afternoon session, after taking a step back from Tuesday's strong gains earlier.

"We had some good news yesterday. I think seeing that

PPI up was what really helped markets, especially since the prior week was all about deflationary fears," said Cantor Fitzgerald U.S. Market Strategist Marc Pado.

Also giving markets a boost was

BHP Billiton's

(BHP) - Get Report

unsolicited takeover offer for

Potash

(POT)

. After Potash spurned the $130-a-share offer, BHP vowed to go hostile with its bid by taking the offer directly to shareholders. Potash shares gained 3.3% to $147.93 while BHP's stock fell by 2.9% at $68.18.

"M&A is always good for the market but I think Potash's comments were also really well received by the market," Pado said, pointing to Potash's comments that BHP was taking advantage of the fact that the fertilizer company had just started to expand globally, putting them in a strong position for future growth. "Potash had something really positive to say both about themselves and also about global conditions and export possibilities."

Wednesday's session lacked any compelling economic news and fell during a week typified by light trading volumes, making it expectantly quiet, Pado said earlier.

"We continue to be stuck in this political situation where nothing is going to get accomplished before November. The campaign on both sides is for more jobs, yet there's no proposal for a job stimulus bill on the table -- all they're talking about is extending the Bush tax cuts, which hasn't helped before and isn't going to help now, but you don't want to go into an election holding hands so they're not putting anything on the table that's actually going to help.

"I think that's a big deterrent to the market because if the market needs jobs to advance and politicians aren't putting anything out there, then there's nothing propelling the market forward," he said.

Overseas on Wednesday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.5% while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.9%. The FTSE in London lost 0.9%, and the DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.3%.

>>The Economy

>>Company News

>>Commodities and the Dollar

>>Treasuries

The Economy

The Energy Information Administration said crude oil inventories shed 800,000 barrels in the week ended Aug. 13, showing a much narrower decline than the 2.25 million-barrel drop that analysts had been anticipating, according to a Platts poll. The decrease was more bullish than the build of 5.87 million barrels reported by the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday. Meanwhile, gasoline stocks were largely unchanged though analysts had been looking for a decrease of 1.6 million barrels. Distillates gained 1.1 million barrels, which was largely in line with the 1.4 million-barrel build forecast by analysts.

>>Overview

>>Company News

>>Commodities and the Dollar

>>Treasuries

Company News

Near the end of the session,

General Motors

filed registration papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission for its much anticipated initial public offering, with shares to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GM.

Energy was one of the session's weakest sectors with

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

and

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

putting in the worst performance on the Dow along with

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

, while

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

led it higher.

Steel stocks also got a boost from swirling M&A rumors surrounding

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

, with

ArcelorMittal

(MT) - Get Report

as a potential suitor. US Steel captured another 4.8% to finish at $49.59, while ArcelorMittal lost 0.3% to close at $31.26.

Legendary hedge fund manager

Stanley Druckenmiller said he's closing his hedge fund , expressing frustration at not being able to live up to his past performance, according to

Bloomberg News

.

Casino operator

Las Vegas Sands

(LVS) - Get Report

said it will repay $1 billion in debt, pushing shares 1.8% higher to $30.29.

Shares of

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

added 2.4% at $51.91 after the retailer met estimates with 92 cents a share. Sales rose 3.8% to $15.1 billion.

BJ's Wholesale Club

(BJ) - Get Report

missed analysts' estimates with earnings of 67 cents a share and lowered its guidance for the year. The stock lost 2.7% to finish at $42.13.

Deere

(DE) - Get Report

reported third-quarter earnings of $1.44 a share, helped by strong conditions in the U.S. farm sector. Analysts had been looking for a profit of $1.23 a share. The stock shed 1.9% to $65.98.

Chico's

(CHS) - Get Report

stock jumped 10.1% to $9.26 after it reported second-quarter earnings that nearly doubled and topped estimates by a penny at 17 cents a share. Sales, meanwhile, grew 11% to $465.4 million.

Joining in the retail earnings fracas after the closing bell,

Limited

(LTD)

said it earned an adjusted 36 cents a share during its most recently completed quarter, besting a 34-cent a share consensus estimate provided by Briefing.com. Teen retailer

Hot Topic

( HOTT), which was projected to widen its loss to 13 cents a share, instead loss 14 cents in the second quarter as sales fell 5%. Shares for Limited gained 0.9% to $25.79 during the regular session and were moving higher in the extended session. Hot Topic closed 0.6% higher to $4.91, but was losing ground after hours.

In a recent court filing at a federal court,

MGA Entertainment

accused rival

Mattel

(MAT) - Get Report

of spying on competitors and stealing trade secrets for at least 15 years. Mattel shares added 0.5% to finish at $22.30.

Netflix

(NFLX) - Get Report

shares also slumped 5.5% to $125.70 today after an analyst at Morgan Keegan cut its rating on the company.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Commodities and the Dollar

>>Treasuries

Commodities and the Dollar

Following the EIA report, crude oil recovered from steeper losses earlier in the day, but the September delivery contract still finished 35 cents lower to settle at $75.42 a barrel. September heating oil also settled a fraction lower at $2.02 a gallon. September gasoline finished at $1.96 a gallon, or nearly a penny higher.

Thursday morning will also bring another report from the EIA, this time unveiling last week's natural gas inventory levels. According to a Platts survey of analysts, it's projected storage levels added another 28 to 32 billion cubic feet last week. Natural gas futures for September delivery fell nearly 3 cents today to $4.24 per million British thermal units.

Elsewhere in commodity markets, the December

gold contract settled higher by $3.10 at $1,231.40 an ounce, finishing close to its highs for the session, as traders bounced between profit-taking and bargain-hunting throughout the session. Gold has gone higher by 2% over the past week, while the

SPDR Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

ETF finished 0.4% higher today at $120.23.

Hecla Mining

(HL) - Get Report

finished 2% higher at $5.06 a share, while shares of fellow miner

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold

(FCX) - Get Report

gained 0.5% to $73.22.

AngloGold Ashanti

(AU) - Get Report

also trekked up by 0.5% to close at $44.20.

The dollar was trading modestly higher of late against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.04%.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Company News

>>Treasuries

Treasuries

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up by 1/32, diluting the yield to 2.639%.

The two-year note was largely unchanged with the yield holding steady at 0.500%. The 30-year bond was up by 19/32, weakening the yield to 3.738%.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Sung Moss in New York

.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Company News

>>Commodites and the Dollar

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.