Stocks Close Little Changed

Oil ends the day slightly higher.
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Updated from 4:04 p.m. EDT

Blue chips ended Thursday with only minor changes, and tech stocks were slightly lower as a handful of profit reports contained disappointments.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 4.22 points, or 0.04%, to 10,554.93. The

S&P 500

off by 1.22 points, or 0.1%, to 1219.02, and the

Nasdaq Composite

was lower by 9.07 points, or 0.42%, to 2136.08. The 10-year Treasury added 16/32 to yield 4.21%, while the dollar rose against the yen and euro.

"Even though things were marginally changed, you have a lot more stocks finishing lower than higher today," said John Hughes, equity strategist with Shields & Co. "We may have to still go lower before a rally develops."

About 1.39 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

, with decliners beating advancers by a 10-to-7 margin. Trading volume on the Nasdaq was 1.41 billion shares, with decliners outpacing advancers 3 to 2.

The Dow finished positive with help from

Altria

(MO) - Get Report

, which rose 3.7% to an all-time high of $70.39. The stock rose after the Illinois Supreme Court decertified a verdict against State Farm Insurance, which may give clues as to how the court will rule on a verdict worth $10.1 billion against Altria.

"The markets are trying to stabilize after a bit of profit-taking over the last few sessions," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist with Spencer Clarke LLC. "Equities were off to a bumpy start from retailer weakness. So far the market hasn't benefited from the pullback in oil. It'll be interesting to see if things will pick up when it focuses on oil."

Oil prices, which lost 4% Wednesday, finished up 2 cents to $63.27 a barrel. The slight increase came after research from Goldman Sachs saying front-month crude could trade around $67 for the rest of this year and at $68 during 2006.

The Labor Department said weekly jobless claims rose to 316,000 for the week ended Aug. 13. Economists expected claims to remain unchanged at 310,000 from last week.

Also, the Conference Board said the leading indicators for July rose 0.1%, which was less than expected. The Philadelphia Fed said its index for August rose to 17.5, slightly higher than expected.

Among companies,

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

finished lower after filing to sell 14.8 million new shares to raise money for general corporate purposes. The follow-on offering would raise more than $4 billion at the current market price. Google slid $5.11, or 1.8%, to close at $279.99.

"This move appears to have taken investors by surprise and will dilute the holding of existing shareholders," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial.

After the bell Wednesday,

Morgan Stanley

(MWD)

said it will retain its Discover credit card unit. Former CEO Phillip Purcell had announced the Discover spinoff before being ousted in favor of John Mack. Instead, the company will sell its aircraft leasing business. Morgan Stanley lost 55 cents, or 1%, to $52.30.

In earnings,

Salesforce.com

(CRM) - Get Report

fell sharply after reporting a decent second quarter but offering tepid guidance. The company expects to earn 2 cents to 4 cents a share on revenue of $78 million to $80 million in the current period. Analysts had been expecting 4 cents a share on $80 million in revenue. Shares dropped $1.88, or 8.5%, to $20.32.

Limited Brands

(LTD)

posted second-quarter net income of $113.1 million, or 27 cents a share, down from $148 million, or 31 cents, a year ago. Sales rose to $2.29 billion from $2.21 billion last year as same-store sales were unchanged. The Thomson First Call consensus was for earnings of 24 cents a share on sales of $2.26 billion. The retailer offered both third-quarter and full-year outlooks that fell short of analysts' estimates. Limited fell $1.17, or 5%, to $22.11.

Video-game retailer

GameStop

(GME) - Get Report

reported second-quarter net income of $7.9 million, or 14 cents a share, slightly up from $7.7 million, or 13 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts expected earnings of 15 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call. Sales increased 20.3% to $415.9 million. The company provided weaker earnings and same-store sales forecasts for the third quarter. Still, GameStop was up $2.89, or 9.8%, to finish the session at $32.34.

Hot Topic

(HOTT)

took another hit after missing second-quarter earnings estimates and taking the ax to its outlook late Wednesday. The teen retailer expects to earn 15 cents to 18 cents a share in the third quarter; Wall Street wanted 27 cents. Hot Topic was lower by $1.67, or 10.6%, to close at $14.14.

Also late Wednesday,

Network Appliance

(NTAP) - Get Report

posted fiscal first-quarter earnings of $60.1 million, or 16 cents a share, up from $46.9 million, or 13 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 25% to $448.4 million from a year ago. Network Appliance offered positive guidance, and its shares gained 58 cents, or 2.4%, to $25.10.

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

will postpone its fourth-quarter report because it needs more time to complete the year-end audit of its financial statements. The company said revenue for the quarter should be around $170 million. Shares finished off 6 cents, or 3.8%, to $1.52.

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

and

Brocade

(BRCDE)

will report earnings after the close.

In ratings moves, brokerage Bear Stearns upgraded

Northwest Airlines

(NWAC)

to outperform from market perform, saying the airline's risk-reward profile has turned favorable. The stock jumped 48 cents, or 9.6%, to $5.48.

Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 down 0.4% to 5269 and Germany's Xetra DAX falling 0.4% to 4851. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3% overnight to 12,307, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 2% to 15,148.