Stocks were little changed in choppy trade on Friday as a brokerage's upgrade of Merck boosted healthcare stocks but profit-taking weighed on financials and big-cap technology shares.

Merck shares were the top boost to the Dow industrials, up nearly 11 percent after Sanford C. Bernstein upgraded the drug maker's stock to outperform.

Earlier the market was underpinned by comments from Citigroup's chairman Richard Parsons to Reuters late on Thursday that the bank did not need any more government aid, sending its stock up more than 7 percent.

But the boost from Citigroup faded as investors booked profits from the recent run-up in bank shares. The KBW bank index <.BKX> fell 2.9 percent.

There's no tangible news (on banks), just profit taking off of huge moves this week, said Bobby Harrington, head of block trading for UBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

Hopes that some stabilization was returning to the banking system helped stocks rise for three straight days. The KBW index had risen near 40 percent for the week at the close on Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 9.87 points, or 0.14 percent, to 7,179.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 0.13 points, or 0.02 percent, to 750.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 4.81 points, or 0.34 percent, to 1,421.29.

Citigroup's stock was up 7.2 percent at $1.79, although it was off from earlier gains that took it up 13 percent to a session high at $1.89. JPMorgan Chase & Co shares were up 1.6 percent at $23.57.

Nasdaq was dragged lower by technology bellwethers, including Microsoft , down 3.6 percent at $16.40, and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion , down 4.6 percent at $39.54.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)