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(Updated with Alcoa earnings.)



) -- The major averages closed near the flat line ahead of


(AA) - Get Alcoa Corporation Report

earnings in what one observer called "a breather day."

Immediately after the close,


reported a surprise profit of 4 cents a share, topping expectations for a 9-cent-a-share loss, on higher than expected revenue. Shares were advancing in post-market activity after rising 2.2% during the regular session.

Earlier in the day,


(COST) - Get Costco Wholesale Corporation Report

-- up 1.9% -- reported third-quarter


and September same-store sales topping of expectations.

TheStreet Recommends


Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell 5.67 points, or 0.06%, to 9725.58, while the

S&P 500

advanced 2.85 points, or 0.3%, to 1057.57. The

Nasdaq Composite

advanced 6.76 points, or 0.3%, to 2110.33.

"This is the breather day, just taking it all in," says Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "Really, the big news isn't going to be out until next week. The way earnings seasons typically goes is that you have a period where the markets rally into earnings, you get the coattails from the big releases in the first full week, and then the individual companies if they hit or miss tend to move stocks but not the group. Finally, get to where you sell the news regardless."

Click below to hear Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors, give his outlook for this earnings season, gold and the dollar.

Commodities were mixed Wednesday with gold reaching again for new highs, rising $4.70 to $1,044.40.

Crude oil futures

fell $1.31 to $69.57, despite a report by the Energy Information Administration showed oil inventories fell by 1 million barrels last week to 337.4 million barrels, surprising analysts who were expecting a 2.2 million barrel build.


Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report

agreed to buy a $4 billion stake in an oil field off the coast of Ghana to gain a foothold in the major new oil-producing region.

Among other stocks making headlines,

Banco Santander


sold a 16% stake as

Banco Santander Brasil

(BSBR) - Get Banco Santander (Brasil) SA Report

in an IPO that raised 14.1 billion reais ($8.1 billion), making it both the biggest IPO in Brazil's history and the largest on a global basis since


(V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report

went public in March 2008. Shares of Banco Santander Brasil closed below their offer price of $13.42 a share, however.

In other news,

Fannie Mae



Freddie Mac


are introducing a program to help independent mortgage banks acquire short-term credit for financing home loans and also reduce risk exposure, the





also reported that

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report

has narrowed its search for a new CEO to two internal candidates -- Chief Risk Officer Gregory Curl and Brian Moynihan, the bank's consumer and small-business banking chief -- but the board is still keeping its eyes open for a new chief outside the company.

Stocks overseas were mixed. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 and the DAX in Frankfurt were falling 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively. But in Asia, the Nikkei in Japan advanced 1.1%, and Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 2.1%.

-- Written by Elizabeth Trotta in New York.