The Dow and S&P were little changed on Thursday as disappointing labor market data offset strong results from Caterpillar, but a strong outlook from Qualcomm lifted the Nasdaq.
Initial jobless claims surged to 454,000 in the latest week, rising to the highest level since late October, the government said.
Three Dow components posted quarterly results, including Procter & Gamble Co , AT&T Inc and Caterpillar Inc . The heavy equipment posted a higher-than-expected profit, sending the stock up 0.4 percent to $96.23.
It is disconcerting that we can't seem to get and stay below the 400,000 level on jobless claims, said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago. But Caterpillar's numbers were strong overall and are a sign of improving conditions overseas.
AT&T and P&G shares fell as their profits slid from the year-ago period, and AT&T's wireless subscriber growth came in below consensus. AT&T dropped 2.6 percent to $27.96, while P&G lost 2.5 percent to $64.45.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 9.65 points, or 0.08 percent, at 11,995.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 2.01 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,298.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 9.55 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,749.05.
Qualcomm Inc helped lift the Nasdaq, rising 4.3 percent to $54.09 a day after it raised its outlook for second-quarter and full-year revenue.
Overseas, ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Japan's long-term debt rating by one notch to AA minus, saying the government lacked a coherent plan to tackle its mounting debt.
In other economic news, new orders for U.S. manufactured goods fell unexpectedly in December, according to a Commerce Department report.
Also, contracts for pending sales of previously owned homes rose faster than expected in December, data from a real estate trade group indicated. Stocks briefly ticked higher on the news before returning to pre-data levels.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)