The Dow and S&P were little changed on Wednesday despite strong profit growth from JPMorgan Chase & Co
The two major indexes erased gains but the Nasdaq composite index rose, helped by tech stocks a day after Riverbed Technology Inc
Shares of Dow component JPMorgan slipped 0.6 percent at $46.37 after rising more than 1 percent earlier. JPMorgan's profit beat expectations, but the company's chief executive said in a conference call there would not be another dividend hike soon.
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People are getting the sense that no matter what these companies say, the easy money has already been made so it will be tough to see further upward movement, said Rick Fier, vice president at Conifer Securities in New York, which has about $7 billion in assets under administration.
Given the run we've seen, some people are cutting back on long exposure, but not to the point where they're taking a directional bet, he added. We're in a range and I don't see people setting up for either a breakout or a breakdown.
Helping lift markets was energy, which rebounded from a steep selloff in Tuesday's session. Brent crude rose 1.4 percent while the S&P energy index rose 0.6 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 9.00 points, or 0.07 percent, at 12,272.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.03 points at 1,314.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 13.80 points, or 0.50 percent, at 2,758.59.
Stocks tumbled on Tuesday after Alcoa Inc
It's too early into the season to tell whether it will be considered a broadly strong quarter, but we may not see a beat rate similar to what we've seen in quarters past, said Liz Ann Sonders, the New York-based chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, which has $1.6 trillion in client assets.
Retail sales rose only modestly in March as auto sales plunged and consumers stretched to pay for pricey gasoline, but upward revisions to the prior months' data pointed to fairly solid first-quarter spending.
Rising energy costs haven't hit the consumer the way many had feared, so if we get a pullback on commodity prices--which is within the realm of possibility--we could even see some positive surprises in the future, Sonders said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama was due to present his vision for tackling the long-term U.S. deficit and debt. Obama is expected to push for higher taxes for the rich and changes to government pension and healthcare plans.
The Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book of regional economic conditions at 2:00 p.m. (1800 GMT).
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)