Dow Ends Slightly Lower in Choppy Trading

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

The blue chips edged lower on the two-year anniversary of markets hitting bottom in the depths of the financial crisis.

Today's Markets 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.3 points, or 0.01%, to 12,213, the S&P 500 skid 1.8 points, or 0.14%, to 1,320 and the Nasdaq Composite slid 14 points, or 0.51%, to 2,751. The FOX 50 was higher by 0.95 point to 937.

While markets gyrated in recent sessions, stocks have rallied since major markets indexes plunged to 12-1/2 year lows on March 9, 2009.  Indeed, the broad S&P 500 has rebounded 95% since hitting that point. Dow components Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) have fared particularly well, soaring more than 300% in the last two years.

Shifts in oil prices have driven markets in recent sessions. Turmoil in oil-producing Libya that pushed crude to multi-year highs continues, with reports that forces loyal to leader Muammar al-Qaddafi escalated attacks on several rebel positions across the embattled country.

Crude inventories jumped by 2.5 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Department -- well above the 600,000 barrel build analysts were expecting.  There were also a record 40.3 million barrels of oil stored in Cushing, Oklahoma, considered a key domestic shipping point for oil.

Oil bobbed between positive and negative territory as traders weighed the bearish inventory report with the tumult in Libya.

Light, sweet crude ended the day lower by 64 cents, or 0.61%, to $104.38 a barrel. On the consumer front, prices at the pump continue rising, averaging $3.53 for a gallon of regular nationwide, compared with $3.12 a month ago, according the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Despite the Dow swinging higher and lower by triple digits numerous times in last two weeks, the blue chips have been bound to a fairly tight trading range, inching higher by 0.1% since February 22.

On the economic front, the Mortgage Bankers Association [MBA], said mortgage application activity jumped 15.5% -- to a three-month high -- last week.

"An improving job market is beginning to pave the way for an improving housing market," Michael Fratantoni, MBA vice president of research and economics, said in the report.

The U.S. dollar slid 0.13% against other world currencies, however the euro lost about 0.02% on the greenback.

In metals, silver jumped 39 cents, or 1.1%, to a record high of $36.04 a troy ounce.  Gold was up $2.40, or 0.17%, to $1,429 a troy ounce.

Corporate Movers

IBM (NYSE:IBM) hit its all-time trading high of $167.72, before backing down slightly, after a slew of analysts boosted their price targets for the technology-giant.

Dynergy (NYSE:DYN) might have to seek bankruptcy protection if it can't shore up its loan facility.  Shares of the energy company dropped nearly 3%.

ING Group (NYSE:ING) is working to sell ING Direct USA -- the largest direct bank in the U.S. -- in a deal that could be worth as much as $10 billion, according to media reports.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) closed a $2 billion deal to sell eight Boeing 777 planes to Russian airline Aeroflot.

Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN) said it expects to earn between 56 and 60 cents a share in the current quarter, narrowly missing analysts' expectations of 59 cents a share.

JDS Uniphase (NASDAQ:JDSU) shares tumbled as gloomy guidance from rival Finisar (NASDAQ:FNSR) spooked the industry. Despite today's sell off, the fiber-optics maker is still the top S&P 500 issue this year.

Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) plans on selling its benefits division to Catalyst Health Solutions (NASDAQ:CHSI) for $525 million in an all-cash deal.

Boston Beer Company (NYSE:SAM) shares slid more than 5% after the brewing company that owns brands like Samuel Adams reported fourth-quarter profits of 87 cents a share, 3 cents shy of analysts' expectations.

Foreign Markets

Global shares were mixed as traders weighed sovereign debt issues in countries like Portugal and Greece and rising brent crude prices.

The English FTSE 100 slipped 0.63% to 5,937, the French CAC 40 slid 0.55% to 3,993 and the German DAX edged lower by 0.46% to 7,131.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 jumped 0.61% to 10,589 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.42% to 23,810.