Stocks were little changed on Friday as weakness in semiconductor makers after a broker downgrade of Intel Corp was offset by strength in energy producers.
Energy shares including Exxon Mobil Corp. extended this week's gains as oil prices remained high, even as they edged off record highs set earlier in the week. Oil prices remained just under Thursday's record settlement above $80 as two of three Texas refineries shut by Hurricane Humberto began restarting, easing fears of a lengthy production disruption.
Also helping the Dow industrials and S&P was a brokerage upgrade of United Technologies Corp., which pushed its shares up 1.2 percent to $75.92. Sanford C. Bernstein also lifted its price target on shares of the industrial conglomerate, citing long-term margin improvement at its Carrier air conditioner and Sikorsky helicopter units.
Shares of Intel declined 1.1 percent to $25.08 after Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the No. 1 chip maker, according to theflyonthewall.com.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.87 points, or 0.01 percent, at 13,423.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 1.61 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,482.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.65 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,597.41.
Keeping the global credit squeeze at the forefront of investors' concerns, Northern Rock of Britain received an emergency loan from the Bank of England and issued a profit warning.
In another development, Merrill Lynch & Co Inc, the world's largest brokerage, said it will adjust the value of securities linked to risky subprime mortgages and other products in a move that could hurt third-quarter profit.
The latest rumblings from the credit market come three trading days before the Federal Reserve decides on interest rates. The tightening of credit and the gyrations in markets have prompted calls for the Fed to cut rates.
Merrill shares fell 1.3 percent to $74.11 on the NYSE. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, for which Northern Rock originates subprime loans, was down 1.7 percent to $58.69.
Shares of Exxon were up 0.9 percent at $89.46.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Coogan)