Dow hits another record

NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks wavered between small gains and losses on Thursday to close little changed as traders weighed generally strong earnings reports against the falling fortunes of energy companies.

Indexes rose from the opening of trading following encouraging quarterly results from Wal-Mart Stores and the media giant Viacom, then flitted up and down most of the day. After four weeks of healthy gains for stocks and a series of record daily closes, the tepid trading was not unexpected.

“After a move higher so far, so fast, the market needs a pause,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. “We need another catalyst to move higher.”

All three major U.S. indexes closed higher after a late-afternoon rally. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.59 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,652.79, a record. It was the seventh record close for the blue-chip index in eight trading days.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.08 points, or less than a tenth of a percentage point, to 2,039.33. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.01 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,680.14.

A slump in the energy sector held back the overall market as oil prices continued to slump over fears that supplies will outstrip demand. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 4 percent and is trading at a four-year low.

Energy stocks closed down 1.4 percent. They had fallen more 2 percent, but got a boost by a late-day report from the Wall Street Journal that Halliburton is in talks to buy rival oil-field service company, Baker Hughes, citing unnamed sources. Baker Hughes soared $7.77, or 15 percent, to $58.75.

In other deal news, DreamWorks Animation jumped 14 percent on a New York Times report that the toy maker Hasbro is trying to buy the movie studio. And Berkshire Hathaway, run by billionaire Warren Buffett, said it was buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble in a deal valued at about $3 billion.

Jim Russell, a portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor, an investment firm, said the deal making helped keep stocks positive for the day.

“It’s another source of demand for stocks, and presumably from smart buyers,” he said. “It’s lent some optimism to the market.”