Investors have been focusing on mostly solid corporate earnings and encouraging economic reports over the last several weeks. The results have helped lessen worries about a potential recession and the boost in confidence has helped push major indexes to record highs.
Health care stocks were the big winners in the early going. Drugstore operator CVS and kidney dialysis provider DaVita both made strong gains following solid earnings reports. Hardwood floor retailer Lumber Liquidators fell 3.1% after reporting weak third-quarter results and a disappointing forecast.
HP soared 12% following reports that Xerox was considering a takeover of the company. Safe-play holdings, including utilities and real estate companies, did better than most of the market. Bond yields fell in another sign that investors were taking a more defensive position.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.82% from 1.86% late Tuesday. Energy and communications companies had the biggest losses. The tepid trading follows a broad rally that started in early October when U.S. and China made progress in their latest round of trade negotiations. The two nations have been working toward solidifying the initial phase of a potentially broader trade deal ever since. That has helped ease concerns on Wall Street that the costly trade war would escalate.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was unchanged as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7 points, or less than 0.1%, to 27,501. The Nasdaq fell 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.3%.
INSURANCE PAYOFF: CVS Health rose 4.9% after reporting surprisingly good third-quarter earnings with some help from its insurance unit. The drugstore chain and pharmacy benefit manager bought health insurance giant Aetna last year. CVS also raised its profit forecast for the year.
OVERSEAS: European markets rose. Asian markets also rose, though The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.4%.