The S&P and Nasdaq eked out gains in the final minutes of trading on Thursday as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would delegate powers to the vice president, though he stopped short of resigning.
The Dow ended slightly lower, breaking an eight-day rally after network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc
The S&P and Nasdaq wavered in volatile late-day action as Mubarak began a speech in response to the weeks of civilian protests. Earlier in the day, as media reports spread that Mubarak might resign, equities rebounded off early lows sparked by the disappointment over Cisco.
The moment Mubarak said he would be giving up duties to his vice president, the market said it was a good thing and rose, said Michael Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion as chairman of Holland & Co in New York.
There was an initial reaction that things would be better, but that doesn't seem to be the case, Holland added. Mubarak's speech enraged protesters, who reacted with chants of Down, down Hosni Mubarak.
More than two weeks of civilian unrest in Egypt have created some uneasiness among global investors on fears that political instability could spread through the region and impact commodities.
The Van Eck Market Vectors exchange-traded fund
Volume on Wall Street was stronger than in recent days, which had seen some of the thinnest trade of the year. But with a total of about 8.15 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, volume was still below last year's daily average of 8.47 billion.
Egypt stopped us from dropping lower, but the low volume means that people are skeptical of the climb we've had, said Michael Nasto, senior trader at U.S. Global Investors Inc in San Antonio, Texas. The Dow and S&P are both up more than 5 percent since the start of 2011.
Cisco shares tumbled 14 percent to $18.92 on heavy volume a day after the outlook, but chief competitors surged as investors see Cisco losing market share. Juniper Networks
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 10.60 points, or 0.09 percent, at 12,229.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.99 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,321.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 1.38 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,790.45.
Also weighing on the Dow was Wal-Mart Stores Inc
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level in 2-1/2 years, the government said on Thursday, in a sign the labor market was improving.
Kraft Foods Inc
Disappointing earnings overseas hurt sentiment as Credit Suisse
Soft drink and snacks maker PepsiCo Inc
The number of advancing stocks slightly outnumbered the number of declining issues on both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)