U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday as the dollar hit a three-month high against the yen, tempering a much better-than-expected report on Midwest business activity.
While investors looked to the data for signs a recovery is taking hold, some traders have moved to safer assets like the dollar to lock in profits after a strong 2009.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer surged to a four-year high, topping forecasts, on a recovery in employment and accelerating new orders.
The dollar is putting a constraint on stocks, and the data isn't a big enough story to really overcome that, said Rob Stein, managing partner of Astor Asset Management in Chicago.
Plus, it's a holiday week and a lot of people are out, so the trading is very thin and everyone wants to book their profits for 2009.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> inched up 1.14 points, or 0.01 percent, to 10,546.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> edged down 1.01 points, or 0.09 percent, at 1,125.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dipped 1.13 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,287.27.
In Tuesday's session, indexes ended modestly lower and snapped a six-day streak of gains.
Semiconductor stocks gained after Kaufman Bros upgraded both Marvell Technology Group Ltd
The Philadelphia Semiconductor index <.SOXX> gained 1.2 percent, while Marvell added 2.9 percent to $20.85 and Nvidia shot up 3.3 percent to $18.62, both in Nasdaq trading.
Health insurance stocks declined after Aetna Inc
Aetna slid 2 percent to $32.20 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Cigna Corp
The U.S. dollar hit a three-month high against the yen on year-end flows in thin trade and views the U.S. economy is on the road to recovery.
U.S. February crude futures rose 80 cents, or 1 percent, to $79.67 per barrel after data from the Energy Information Administration showed declines in crude oil stockpiles in the latest week. Falling inventories are considered a bullish sign for demand in the world largest energy consumer.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)