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Benchmarks showed minimal movement on Wednesday after earnings reports released yesterday failed to impact investor sentiment. The S&P 500 and the Dow are near record levels following better-than-expected earnings from most companies and encouraging economic data. Among the S&P 500 industry groups, Consumer Discretionary sector emerged as the major gainer while technology sector was the biggest loser.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) increased 0.1% to close the day at 13,986.52. The S&P 500 rose 0.1% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,512.12. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.1% to end at 3,168.48. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) decreased 2.3% to settle at 13.41. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.5 billion shares, marginally higher than the daily average of 6.45 billion shares in 2012. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners on the NYSE. For 55% stocks that advanced, 42% declined.

Due to a recent rally, the S&P 500 and the Dow were 53 points and 178 points, lower than record levels achieved last in October 2007. This year the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq increased 6.7%, 6% and 4.9%, respectively. Better-than-expected earnings along with encouraging economic data such as improving employment numbers pushed the indices towards new highs last achieved in October 2007. Positive economic data from Europe and China also played a major role in this rally.

On the earnings front, media giant The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) reported profits that beat the Street’s expectations, following which shares of the company increased 0.4%. The company expects positive growth in earnings from movies, theme parks and networks. Another media giant, Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) reported a 51% increase in net profit while revenue was mostly unchanged for the reported quarter. Shares of the company surged 4.1% after it beat the Street’s estimates. The company had lower sales in TV entertainment, film and publishing units but the loss was overshadowed by higher sales in cable networks.

Shares of Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO) fell 1% after earnings fell 41% for the fourth quarter. Earnings per share were below the Street’s estimates. Apparel giant Ralph Lauren Corp (NYSE:RL) registered a profit of 27% largely on account of high spending by high-end customers in U.S. and better sales in Europe. Shares of the company increased 5.9% after it beat expectations.

On the international front, investors are also worried about the current political situation in both Spain and Italy and expect a change in leadership in those two countries. This skepticism has arisen after the Spanish Prime Minister was asked to resign by the opposition after being blamed for illicit transactions.  Markets will keep an eye on the European Central bank policy meeting scheduled for Thursday.  

The technology sector finished in the red and the Technology SPDR (XLK) lost 0.03%. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE) lost 0.1%, 0.6%, 0.5%, 1.1% and 0.3%, respectively.

The consumer discretionary sector finished in the green and the Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY) gained 0.2%. Stocks such as Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), and McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) rose 0.5%, 0.4%, 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively.

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