Wall Street has struggled this week, notching small moves in light volume, as an absence of trading incentives kept buyers at bay. Comments from Federal Reserve officials, which underlined confusion over when the central bank's stimulus policy would start to slow, further added to uncertainty. "It's very quiet, and the market is just digesting and looking ahead. I don't see anything dramatic coming up," said John Carey, portfolio manager at the Boston-based Pioneer Investment Management, which has about $200 billion in assets under management. "Markets are steady in terms of valuation, with no great risks but also no screaming buys." In the latest comments from a Fed official, Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, reiterated that the central bank will probably begin cutting back on its massive bond-buying stimulus next month, as long as economic data continues to improve. While many investors are concerned that economic growth will stall without the Fed's help, shares have been supported by some strong earnings and encouraging data overseas. In China, industrial output rose more than expected, adding to a string of data that indicated the economy may be stabilizing after an extended period of tepid growth.
"China has shown a lot of signs of acceleration, and that is very helpful for markets at large," said Carey. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.33 points, or 0.00 percent, at 15,497.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.77 points, or 0.05 percent, at 1,698.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.49 points, or 0.15 percent, at 3,674.62. For the week, the S&P is down 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq is down 0.4 percent. The Dow is down 1 percent, snapping a six-week string of gains. The Nasdaq was boosted by Priceline.com Inc, which rose 5.9 percent to $988.65, a day after it reported earnings that beat expectations and gave a strong outlook. Some analysts speculate the shares will cross $1,000 soon, which would be a first for a Standard & Poor's 500 stock. U.S. shares of BlackBerry Ltd jumped 5.3 percent to $9.72 after Reuters reported that the company was warming to the idea of going private, citing sources familiar with the situation. Monster Beverage Corp rose 2.8 percent to $65.27 after JPMorgan raised its price target on the stock to $70 from $52. Late Thursday, it reported earnings that missed expectations. J.C. Penney Co shares fell 4.2 percent to $13.13. Late Thursday, activist investor Bill Ackman sent a letter to the retail chain's board, pushing to have a new chief executive named in the next 30 to 45 days. Of 442 companies in the S&P 500 that reported results through Thursday morning, Thomson Reuters data showed that 67 percent topped analysts' expectations, matching the beat rate over the past four quarters. In terms of revenue, 53.6 percent exceeded estimates, more than the 48 percent rate over the past four quarters, but below the 61 percent average since 2002.