Investors also got more key quarterly reports amid indications that earnings season is shaping up nicely. Thomson Reuters said the companies comprising the S&P 500 are now on pace to deliver earnings growth of 16.3% for the calendar quarter, up from 13.1% as of Oct. 3.

Drugmaker Merck ( MRK) saw its stock rise 2.3% to close at $35.11 after reporting third-quarter earnings of 94 cents a share, beating the average analyst estimate of 91 cents.

Shares of Whirlpool ( WHR) plummeted 14.3% to $51.80 after the company slashed its outlook and announced 5,000 job cuts to trim costs.

AMD's ( AMD) stock gained 7.2% to $5.94 after the chipmaker swung to a profit in the third quarter, citing strong demand for its mobile processors. The semiconductor company earned $97 million, or 13 cents a share, in the latest quarter, after losing$118 million in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected earnings of 10 cents a share.

On the Dow, Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) rose 3.5% to $27.94 after the company said Thursday it will keep its PC division. The technology giant had been considering a spinoff of its computer business in recent months.

Dow components were split between the positive and negative. HP led the gains while Alcoa ( AA) and Merck finished close behind. Meanwhile, Home Depot ( HD), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Microsoft ( MSFT) were the biggest laggards.

Market breadth was also split evenly as 54% of the 4.5 billion shares that traded on the New York Stock Exchange rose while 43% were lost ground. On the Nasdaq, 1.9 billion shares changed hands.

The dollar index, a measure of the dollar's value against a basket of currencies, was flat. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 24/32, diluting the yield to 2.317%.

-- Written by Chao Deng and Melinda Peer in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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