Reports that Russia and Ukraine were close to reaching a cease-fire agreement gave stock markets around the world a lift on Wednesday. In the U.S., the stock market flipped between slight gains and losses, as a slide in Apple and other technology stocks tugged on indexes.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 was up one point, a fraction of a percent, to 2,003 as of 2 p.m. Eastern time.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,101. The Nasdaq composite, which is dominated by large technology companies, sank 18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,580.
SCREEN BATTLE: Apple slumped $3.55, or 3 percent, to $99.77 after its rival, Samsung, introduced Galaxy smartphones with displays aimed at quick access to frequently used applications. Analysts expect Apple to unveil new iPhones with bigger screens next week.
TECH TURN: Shares in other big tech companies, including Amazon and Facebook, also lost more than 1 percent. Of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500, technology companies lost the most, down 0.5 percent.
OVER THERE: News of a possible cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine drove up stocks in Germany, the largest economy in Europe and one with strong economic ties to Russia. The CAC-40 in France picked up 1 percent. Russia's benchmark MICEX jumped 3.5 percent.
U.S. ECONOMY: Another encouraging report on the U.S. economy came from the government on Wednesday. The Commerce Department said that orders for U.S. factory goods shot up 10 percent in July, the biggest one-month jump on records running back to 1992. Orders for commercial aircraft fueled the rise.
ROOM TO RUN: "Everything right now is pointing to greater market strength," said Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. market strategist at RBC Capital Markets. "What usually stops bull markets? It's almost always a recession." And there are no signs of a recession on the horizon, he said.
CEASE-FIRE: Markets surged following reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart had agreed to the broad terms of a peace plan to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Details remain sketchy. Ukraine and Western countries say Russia has armed insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies it.
ANALYST'S TAKE: Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari, said the reports of a cease-fire were "welcomed with open arms by the markets." The hope, he said, must be that economic sanctions on Russia would soon be lifted, which could help the European economy reclaim lost ground. "We can't forget that the effects of the crisis have been felt in many countries beyond those directly involved," said Erlam.
AILING EUROPE: The crisis in Ukraine has played a role in hampering the European economic recovery this year. In its monthly survey, financial information company Markit highlighted tensions in Ukraine as a culprit behind a sharp fall in its gauge of business activity in the 18-country eurozone. Some economists expect the European Central Bank to announce new measures on Thursday to help pull the region out of a rut.
ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 2.3 percent. Stock markets in mainland China and Southeast Asia also made gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent.
GOTHAM: Shares in Netflix headed higher following news that the company struck a deal with Warner Bros. to run the television series "Gotham," a show about the origins of Batman and the superhero's archenemies. The series will debut on Fox in September, and Netflix will reportedly have the rights to the show in more than one country starting next year. Netflix's stock picked up $3.50, or 1 percent, to $480.10.
ENERGY: News of a possible cease fire helped support oil prices. Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was up $1.93 to $94.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.