NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Stocks pared losses in late trading to finished mixed Thursday as uncertainty about the euro zone persisted.

The action was similar to Wednesday's session, although the major U.S. equity indices traded in a much tighter range. Early weakness amid continued speculation about Greece's future gave way as the day wore on.

Sentiment may have gotten a boost from remarks made by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. In an interview broadcast on Italian television, the premier said the region might soon issue euro bonds, according to a Bloomberg report. The plan for joint eurozone debt has been put forth by some European Monetary Union members, most notably French President Francois Hollande, the newly elected socialist successor to Nicolas Sarkozy, but Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has been staunchly opposed to the idea.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 34 points, or 0.3%, to close at 12,529.75, after ranging as low as 12,419 earlier in the session.

The S&P 500 also managed to reverse its losses, adding nearly 2 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 1320. The index has gained nearly 2% so far this week though it's still down about 8% from a four-year high reached in April.

The Nasdaq closed in the red, down nearly 11 points or 0.4% at 2839.

Among the 30 Dow stocks, 21 stocks finished in the green, led by Hewlett Packard ( HPQ), Home Depot ( HD) and Coca Cola ( KO).

Hewlett Packard ( HPQ) rose 3.3%, after the PC and printer giant reported second-quarter profit excluding items of 98 cents a share, beating expectations, and announced plans to lay off 27,000 people.

Cisco ( CSCO), Caterpillar ( CAT) and Bank of America ( BAC) were among the Dow's worst performers.

From a sector standpoint, technology, energy and capital goods were weak, while consumer non-cyclicals, transportation and utilities found buyers.

Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, sees a bumpy ride ahead for stocks in the intermediate term.

"We're going to continue to see some volatility on uncertainty until we can get a little more clarity out of Europe," said Bell. For now, he thinks that U.S. economic indicators have taken a backseat to "much larger things" such as Europe's debt troubles and global slowdown concerns.

Investors greeted economic news with a shrug on Thursday. The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims for the week ended May 19 came in at 370,000, in line with the expectations of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. The prior week's figure was upwardly revised to 372,000.

The Department of Commerce reported that durable goods orders rose 0.2% in April, less than the 0.5% increase expected by economists. March's drop was revised to a 3.7% decline from a 3.9% fall.

"I think that the U.S. economy is going to continue to grow, I think we're going to avoid recession," said Alan Gayle, senior strategist at RidgeWorth Investments. Gayle has been bullish for most of the year, but is now worried that corporate profits will be pressured going into the second half of the year.

He says that next Friday's jobs report should help the markets determine the economy's overall direction. The general view is that the weather helped the jobs situation in the first two months of 2012 and hurt it in the second two months; therefore, it's likely that "we're going to get a 'clean' number in the May jobs report."

London's FTSE closed up 1.6%, and the DAX in Germany finished up 0.5%, even after a Markit's flash purchasing managers' index showed that private-sector output across the eurozone shrank in May at its most rapid pace since mid-2009.

At last check, the benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 14/32, raising the yield to 1.783% and the greenback was up 0.4%, according to the dollar index.

Commodities were gaining, with the July crude oil contract rising 76 cents to settle at $90.66 a barrel and June gold futures rose $9.1 to settle at $1,557.50 an ounce.


In corporate news, Costco Wholesale ( COST), the warehouse retailer, reported fiscal-third-quarter earnings Thursday of $386 million, or 88 cents a share, up from year-earlier profit of $324 million, or 73 cents. Including higher membership fees, total revenue rose 8% to $22.32 billion. Analysts were calling for earnings of 87 cents a share on revenue of $22.21 billion. Shares rose 1.4%.

Jewelry company Tiffany ( TIF) lowered its 2012 earnings guidance to be between $3.70 a share and $3.80 a share from previous estimates of between $3.95 a share and $4.05 a share. Shares tumbled nearly 7%.

Facebook ( FB) shares rose 3.2%, extending the previous session's rebound after two-straight days of steep declines. The stock price still remains well below its $38 initial public offering price as the company's IPO becomes the focus of two congressional inquiries and a growing number of lawsuits amid accusations that important information about Facebook's growth prospects were withheld before the debut.

-- Written by Andrea Tse and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.