Stocks waver in midday trading on Wall Street

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks flipped between minor gains and losses in morning trading Friday. After taking a hard hit in the middle of the week, major indexes are on track to end it with a slight loss.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up one point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,871 shortly as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average was up four points, also 0.1 percent, to 16,452. The Nasdaq composite index fell five points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,060.

HOUSING MARKET: Builders started work on more houses in April, as U.S. construction surged to its highest pace in six months, the Commerce Department announced before the market opened. Almost all of that increase, however, came from new apartment buildings, a sign that Americans are still struggling to buy single-family homes.

BUFFETT BUMP: Verizon Communications rose the most of the 30 big companies in the Dow. The stock's jump followed news that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway revealed a new investment in the telecom late Thursday. Other big-name investors, including John Paulson, also reportedly took stakes. Verizon climbed $1.07, or 2 percent, to $49.05,

MORE SALES: J.C. Penney's stock jumped $1.36, or 16 percent, to $9.72. Rising sales helped the department store chain turn in better results than analysts expected late Thursday. Sales at stores open at least a year — a key gauge of a chain's health — increased more than 6 percent in its first quarter.

LOOK BACK: The S&P 500 is headed for a slight loss for the second week in a row after its worst one-day drop in a month on Thursday. Earlier in the week, however, the benchmark for most U.S. stock funds notched all-time highs for two straight days.

QUOTE: "We're so used to hitting record highs that all of a sudden two down days seem tragic," said Dan Cook, a director at Nadex, an exchange in Chicago. "We're at high levels so it's a time to be cautious."

EUROPE: France's CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent, while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent.

ASIA: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock sank 1.4 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent, while on the mainland, the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1 percent.

OTHER MARKETS: U.S. government bonds barely moved, keeping yields near their lows for the year. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was 2.51 percent, up from 2.49 percent late Thursday. Gold fell $2.50 to $1,291.10 an ounce. Crude oil rose 16 cents to $101.66 a barrel.