Wall St ends near flat; retailers fly for a second day
US stocks finished flat with investors hesitant to make a big move on the day before comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, though retailers' shares rallied on results for a second day.
The S&P 500 once again briefly broke above its 2013 year-end level of 1,848.36, which has served as resistance, but failed to hold above it, analysts said. The index remained down 0.2 percent for the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18.75 points or 0.12 percent, to end at 16,198.41. The S&P 500 inched up a mere 0.04 of a point to finish at 1,845.16. The Nasdaq Composite added 4.477 points or 0.10 percent, to close at 4,292.064.
The S&P 500 reached a record intraday high of 1,858.71 on Monday, but was unable to hit a record close.
The small-cap Russell 2000 index . climbed to a record closing high of 1,181.72.
The S&P 500 retail index gained 1.4 percent. Wednesday's strong retail performance came a day after upbeat results from Home Depot and Macy's.
In another positive sign, new home sales surged to a 5-1/2-year high in January, far exceeding expectations.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.2 percent lower at 1,348.75 points, following a 7 percent rise from a low hit on Feb. 4.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index ended 0.3 percent lower, at 3,148.19 points.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei average fell after hitting a four-week closing high the previous day, as investors took profits after weak US economic data soured sentiment.
The Nikkei ended 0.5 percent lower at 14,970.97. The broader Topix index slipped 0.7 percent to 1,225.35, with only 1.9 billion shares changing hands, the smallest volume since mid-December.