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Oct 21, 5:11 PM EDT

US stocks close mostly lower; eke out gain for the week

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AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

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The major U.S. stock indexes closed mostly lower Friday, capping a day spent wavering between small gains and losses.

Phone companies were the biggest drag on the market following reports that AT&T was considering a deal to acquire the media conglomerate Time Warner. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile US all fell.

Health care and energy stocks also took some losses, while consumer staples and technology companies held on to slight gains.

Investors continued to focus on corporate America, reviewing earnings from General Electric, McDonald's and other big companies. Earnings from banks and other financial companies have been mostly better than anticipated, which has helped boost that sector.

"We're seeing a lot better earnings come out of the financial sector in particular, and some good earnings come out of technology," said David Schiegoleit, managing director of investments at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. "That is reflected in some of the sector performance, but when you look at the market overall we're still being weighed down by energy."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.64 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,145.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.18 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,141.16. The Nasdaq composite index gained 15.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,257.40.

The three indexes ended slightly higher for the week. The Dow is now up 4.1 percent for the year, while the S&P 500 is up 4.8 percent. The Nasdaq is up 5 percent.

Roughly two weeks into the third-quarter financial reporting period, earnings for companies in the S&P 500 are projected be down about 0.8 percent overall from a year ago, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. That forecast is largely due to the energy sector, which has been hard hit by falling energy prices.

Several companies that reported results on Friday failed to impress investors.

General Electric slipped 9 cents to $28.98 after the company said its latest quarterly sales fell more than anticipated due to weaker results from its lighting and transportation businesses. The industrial conglomerate also trimmed its revenue forecast for the year.

Skechers U.S.A. slumped 17.3 percent after the footwear maker reported disappointing results for the second quarter in a row. The stock fell $3.96 to $18.98.

Others companies fared better.

McDonald's rose 33 percent after the world's biggest hamburger chain served up earnings and revenue that exceeded Wall Street's expectations. The stock added $3.36 to $113.93.

Microsoft climbed 4.2 percent a day after the software giant posted a surprisingly high profit for its fiscal first quarter. The results help validate the company's increased focus on software and online services. The stock gained $2.41 to $59.66, eclipsing its previous record close of $59.56 set in December 1999.

News and corporate deal talk also fueled big moves on Wall Street Friday.

Reynolds American jumped 14 percent after London-based British American Tobacco offered to buy out the 57.8 percent stake in Reynolds that it doesn't already own. Reynolds was evaluating the offer, which analysts say would help both sides overcome a decline in smoking rates in their home markets and competition from electronic cigarettes. Reynolds was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing $6.61 to $53.78.

AT&T fell 3 percent following reports that the company was considering a deal to acquire the media conglomerate Time Warner. AT&T slid $1.16 to $37.49.

Beyond earnings, concerns about the implications of a rising dollar and a possible interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve this year have kept the market in a listless state recently, noted Krishna Memani, chief investment officer at OppenheimerFunds.

"The market is not taking a significant turn in a negative way, but it doesn't really see any positive impetus in the near term to go higher," Memani said.

After an early slide, crude oil prices recovered in afternoon trading. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 22 cents to close at $50.85 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 40 cents to close at $51.78 a barrel in London.

The major stock indexes in Europe barely budged Friday as investors increasingly factored in the likelihood of a U.S. interest rate increase this year.

Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent lower. Britain's FTSE 100 also slipped 0.1 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3 percent, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's stock market was closed due to a typhoon.

In other U.S. energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline added 4 cents to $1.53 a gallon, while heating oil gained a penny to $1.57 a gallon. Natural gas lost 15 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $2.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In metals trading, the price of gold gained 20 cents to $1,267.70 an ounce, while silver lost 6 cents to $17.49 an ounce. Copper slid a penny to $2.09 a pound.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.74 percent from 1.76 late Thursday.

In currency markets, the dollar slipped to 103.85 yen from 103.95 on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.0871 from $1.0926.

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