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Wall Street ends flat as rally slows, earnings eyed

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks ended little changed on Friday as investors took a step back from buying ahead of next week's busy corporate earnings calendar.

Overall earnings are expected to grow by just 1.9 percent in this season, according to Thomson Reuters data. Analysts say that, with the bar low, there's room for companies to beat expectations, and that may have contributed to the rise in stocks so far in 2013.

That rally has slowed in the last few days.

"It's a market that is waiting for more of a catalyst from earnings," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

The S&P 500 index has gained 5 percent over the last two weeks to take the benchmark to five-year highs.

Wells Fargo & Co set a weak tone Friday after it reported results. It showed lower fourth-quarter net interest margin - a key measure of how much money banks make from loans - even as profit jumped.

The bank, which was the first major financial institution to report results this earnings season, also made fewer mortgage loans than in the third quarter.

Wells Fargo ended down 0.8 percent at $35.10, off its lows for the day, while bank shares weighed on the broader market. The S&P 500 financial sector index <.GSPF> fell 0.3 percent after rallying more than 1 percent on Thursday.

Bank of America Corp , JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc are due to report results next week, as are other major companies including General Electric and Intel .

An agreement reached in Washington at the start of the year over the "fiscal cliff" saw investors in U.S.-based funds add $7.53 billion to stock mutual funds in the week ended Jan 9, the most since 2001, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed.

"The money poured into the market at the beginning of the year and you're going to need new money to bring this market higher," said Krosby. She said that in the short-term the market has a bias toward moving higher, even though it is overbought.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 17.21 points, or 0.13 percent, to 13,488.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dipped 0.07 points to 1,472.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 3.88 points, or 0.12 percent, to 3,125.64.

For the week, the S&P and Dow both gained 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.8 percent.

Boeing weighed on the Dow after a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan added to problems with some of its Dreamliner 787 jets, compounding safety concerns about the new aircraft.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said the jet would be subject to a review of its critical systems by regulators. Boeing was the biggest loser on the Dow, falling 2.5 percent to $75.16.

Best Buy rallied after its results showed a small turnaround in U.S. stores, though same-store sales were flat during the key holiday season. Its shares jumped 16.4 percent to $14.21, making it the best performer on the S&P 500.

Dendreon Corp surged 21 percent to $6.17 after Sanford C. Bernstein upgraded the drugmaker's stock to "outperform" from "market-perform" and said it could be one of the best performers in 2013.

Volume was below the 2012 average of 6.42 billion shares traded a day, with roughly 5.93 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT.

Advancers outpaced decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by 1,578 to 1,393, while advancers narrowly outnumbered decliners on the Nasdaq by 1,228 to 1,223.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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