Stocks were little changed on Friday as financial shares fell after the tepid debut of a Federal Reserve measure to revive lending, offsetting investors' bets that mergers could heat up after reports IBM was in talks to buy rival Sun Microsystems.
Financial shares were hit after investors largely stayed away from the Federal Reserve's long-awaited program to resuscitate consumer and small business lending, known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), on Thursday.
Shares of JPMorgan
The TALF developments put the focus on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is scheduled to speak on the financial crisis and community banking at a banking event in Phoenix, Arizona, at 12 p.m. EDT.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 10.91 points, or 0.15 percent, to 7,411.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was off 2.19 points, or 0.28 percent, to 781.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> slipped 1.92 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,481.56.
The market was getting some support from the tech sector, with International Business Machines Corp
Investors believed that the next area where it would be logical to have merger and acquisitions activity would be the tech sector, said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at NorthStar Investment Management Corp in Chicago.
There are a lot of very large, very cash-rich companies and a lot of small, medium-sized companies that fill nice niches for those bigger companies, Kuby said.
The drag from financials presented a hurdle for a market attempting to sustain its bounce from 12-year lows reached earlier this month. Trading was volatile, with Friday marking the quarterly expiration and settlement of four different March equity futures and options contracts -- a convergence known as quadruple witching.
Even so, the benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> is on track for its best 2-week run-up since 1974 when it rose 15.95 percent.
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)