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The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell sharply after Oracle's earnings miss worried traders, but the more evenly-weighted S&P 500 ticked higher as other sectors rallied.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.2 points, or 0.03%, to 12,108, the S&P 500 climbed 2.4 points, or 0.19%, to 1,244 and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 25.8 points, or 1%, to 2,578.
The technology sector under-performed by a wide margin after Oracle's (NASDAQ:ORCL) quarterly results, released after the closing bell on Tuesday, missed analysts' expectations on the top and bottom line. The software giant's shares were off 11.7%.
The four biggest laggards on the Dow were all major technology players: IBM (NYSE:IBM), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Cisco (NYSE:CSCO). In fact, the blue-chip average would have finished 54 points higher without its technology components, according to an analysis by FOX Business.
Oracle led the Nasdaq 100 index of non-financial companies lower, while rallying Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) shares are helping to limit the losses to some extent. The BlackBerry maker got a boost from multiple media reports suggesting companies may be considering purchasing the ailing firm.
However, excluding technology, many other sectors were to the upside. Energy shares performed well on the back of gains in energy futures markets, while utilities and consumer staples represented another bright spot. Airplane maker Boeing (NYSE:BA) and oil companies ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) were the best-performing blue chips.
Oil and gasoline prices got a boost from a bullish weekly inventory report from the Energy Department. Crude inventories tumbled 10.6 million barrels last week, much bigger than the expected 2.3 million-barrel draw. Meanwhile, gasoline stocks were off 412,000 barrels compared to expectations of a 1.2 million-barrel build.
The benchmark crude oil contract jumped $1.47, or 1.5%, to $98.67 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline ticked 1.6% higher to $2.62 a gallon.
Gold slumped $4.00, or 0.25%, to $1,614 a troy ounce. Treasury yields rose as traders sold the safe-haven asset. The benchmark 10-year note yields 1.932% from 1.923%.
Gloomy Home-Sale Revisions
The National Association of Realtors pared back its existing home sales figures by an average of 14% between 2007 and 2010, according to a calculation by Dow Jones Newswires. The trade group said earlier in the month its calculation substantially over-estimated the number of existing home sales. For November, sales increased 4% to an annual rate of 4.42 million from a negatively-revised 4.25 million in October. Economists expected a reading of 5.05 million.
ECB Ramps Up Lending, Eurozone Confidence Remains Weak
The eurozone debt crisis has been a major focus on Wall Street as its crept from Europe's periphery to its core, and threatened the region's financial markets.
Consumer confidence in the 17-member currency bloc fell for the sixth-straight month, according to the preliminary results of a European Commission survey. Consumers are a critical component of national economies, and therefore, can have an outsized impact on broader measures of economic expansion.
For weeks, analysts have been looking to see what measures the European Central Bank would take in a bid to ease the crisis.
The ECB said on Wednesday it lent 489.19 billion euros to 523 European banks at its first-ever three-year bond auction. The money was lent at a rate of 1%. While analysts saw the move as generally positive for the banking sector that has been weighed down by the debt crisis, many market participants are still worry that it may do little to directly affect sovereign debt markets.
The move comes as "fairly good news," however it remains unclear how much of the capital will be used to shore up balance sheets and how much will go into debt markets, said Will Hedden, a trader at London-based IG Index in an interview with FOX Business. Debt yields have climbed as investors have exited the market sovereign debt markets.
The yields on closely-watched eurozone bonds remained elevated but well off of recent highs. The benchmark Italian 10-year presently yields 6.55%, while the Spain's yields 5.08%. Investors demand 4.6 percentage point premium to buy Italian debt over the German bund, Europe's safe-haven asset, and a 3.1 percentage point premium to purchase Spain's bonds.
The euro slipped 0.24% to $1.3045, while European blue chips gained 0.33%.
European blue chips slumped 0.8%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.55% to 5,390 and the German DAX fell 0.95% to 5,792.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 1.5% to 8,460 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.9% to 18,416.