U.S. stocks mostly slipped on Friday after a weak consumer sentiment report offset positive news from bellwethers Dell Inc
Support from the two companies, however, let the Nasdaq eke out a tiny gain.
All three major indexes still posted their second weekly advance, although the gains were relatively modest.
With U.S. stocks up about 50 percent from multi-year lows in March, investors are concerned that the rally may have run its course, and that with many market players taking last-minute vacations, there aren't enough buyers to push stocks up further.
Consumer sentiment in August slid to a four-month low on worries about high unemployment and personal finances, a Reuters/University of Michigan survey showed, also curbing the market's appetite for risk.
Expectations are higher and any kind of data that doesn't exceed forecasts with rosy numbers can't move the market, said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates in Toledo, Ohio.
I think the absence of buyers is triggering traders to sell into the weekend. Next week is basically the last week of the summer, and with more buyers away, there would be fewer catalysts of bull momentum.
Intel led the Nasdaq's major gainers and helped the index nudge back into positive territory in late afternoon trading.
Intel's stock climbed 4 percent to $20.25 after the chip maker raised its third-quarter revenue outlook on stronger-than-expected demand for its microprocessors and chipsets.
Dell rose 1.8 percent to $15.93 and Marvell Technology
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> declined 36.43 points, or 0.38 percent, to end at 9,544.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost only 2.05 points, or 0.20 percent, to 1,028.93.
But the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> inched up 1.04 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 2,028.77.
For the week, the Dow advanced 0.4 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.4 percent.
The losses were broad-based, with health-care stocks helping to lead the declines. Merck & Co Inc
Among the blue-chip Dow industrials, McDonald's Corp
A bright spot was provided by Tiffany & Co
Troubled financials continued to dominate trading. Shares of the two largest U.S. home funding companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, gained sharply, extending a trend seen earlier this week. Freddie Mac
The bailed-out insurer American International Group Inc
Earlier in the day, the S&P 500 climbed to 1,039.47, its highest intraday level since October 14, 2008, before turning negative after the consumer sentiment data.
In other data released on Friday, a report from the Commerce Department showed consumer spending edged up 0.2 percent in July, largely driven by the government's cash-for-clunkers program, while personal incomes were flat in June.
Volume was light on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1.19 billion shares changing hands, below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion.
On the Nasdaq, about 2.36 billion shares traded, slightly above last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Advancing stocks slightly outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,507 to 1,490.
On the Nasdaq, though, the opposite trend held sway: About 17 stocks fell for every 9 that rose.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)