U.S. stocks barely moved on Thursday after a report showed improvement in U.S. Mid-Atlantic business activity and companies posted some strong results.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's index showed factory activity expanded more than expected in March, although new orders fell. Earlier, the government said the Consumer Price Index was flat in February, backing up the Federal Reserve's commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate ultra low for a while. A separate report showed a dip in new claims for jobless benefits in the latest week.
Both Nike Inc
Earnings continue to be good, and along with lack of inflation pressure, there's nothing preventing the markets from continuing on their uptrend, said Carl Birkelbach, chairman of Birkelbach Investment Securities in Chicago.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> edged up 5.82 points, or 0.05 percent, to 10,739.49. But the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dipped 3.88 points, or 0.33 percent, to 1,162.33. And the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> slipped 2.54 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,386.55.
Worries over Greece's fiscal situation added caution after its prime minister warned his country would not be able to make planned deficit cuts unless it can borrow money cheaply. Finance officials in Greece also strongly denied a report that it was scheduled to turn to the International Monetary Fund as soon as April.
The U.S.-listed shares of The National Bank of Greece
Within the Philly Fed's March report, there was a sign of inflationary pressure on the region's manufacturers with the prices paid index rising in March to the highest level since August 2008. That was in contrast to the flat reading for overall U.S. consumer prices in February, and only a mild increase of 0.1 percent in the closely watched core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices.
The data and earnings have been pretty positive overall, but the numbers weren't so good as to provide a big catalyst after the gains we've had, said Alan Lancz, president of an investment advisory firm that bears his name in Toledo, Ohio.
Stocks gained on Wednesday, marking a seven-day winning streak for the Dow, its longest since an eight-session run in August 2009.
Volume, however, has been lackluster ahead of key options expirations on Thursday and Friday, when four different types of options and futures contracts expire in a convergence known as quadruple witching.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)