Stocks Finish Mixed After Bernanke Buzzkill, Spain Downgrade


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks closed on a mixed note Thursday, held in check by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's non-committal stance on additional stimulus measures and a downgrade of Spain's credit rating by Fitch.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46 points, or 0.4%, to close at 12,461, settling more than 90 points below a session high of 12,555.

The S&P 500 finished flat at 1315, snapping a three-day winning streak. The Nasdaqshed nearly 14 points, or 0.5%, to finish at 2831.

Breadth was mixed on the Dow with 16 of 30 components finishing in the green. Procter & Gamble ( PG), United Technologies ( UTX) and Home Depot ( HD) were the biggest gainers.

Blue-chip decliners included Bank of America ( BAC) and Hewlett Packard ( HPQ).

Wall Street got an early lift after the People's Bank of China slashed its benchmark lending and deposit rates by 0.25 percentage points to prevent excessive cooling of economic growth in the country.

The PBOC also said that it will give the green light for the deposit rate to soar by 110% of the benchmark rate and the lending rate to decline to 80% of the benchmark.

That added to already heightened expectations that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would hint at the possibility of more quantitative easing to boost the U.S. economy in his testimony before the Joint Economic Committee in Congress on Thursday.

Bernanke, though, retained a neutral tone on the topic of monetary easing in his testimony suggesting the central bank intends to remain in wait-and-see mode, and may not take action at the FOMC meeting in two weeks.

The chairman maintained that the situation in Europe continues to pose significant risks to the U.S. financial system and economy, and that "as always," the Federal Reserve remains "prepared to take action as needed" and that it has the tools available to do this.

He added that if the so-called "fiscal cliff" were allowed to occur with the severe tightening of fiscal policy -- built into the current law -- at the start of the next year, it could "pose a significant threat to the recovery."

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