Stocks Zigzag Amid Mixed News

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The markets fluctuated between gains and losses as traders digested mixed economic data and headlines from the eurozone.

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Today's Markets

As of 12:30 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.1 points, or 0.03%, to 13129, the S&P 500 climbed 0.92 point, or 0.07%, to 1411 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 6.6 points, or 0.21%, to 3080.

Trading has been very thin in recent days. Indeed, volume on the New York Stock Exchange at 2.4 billion on Monday was the lowest for a full trading session this year.

Market participants pointed to caution ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the central bank's economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo. on Friday as part of the reason for the light trade. The European Central Bank is also set to have a meeting the following week that is likely to capture Wall Street's attention.

Housing prices in 20 major metropolitan areas climbed 2.3% in June from May on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller report, a bigger gain than the 1.6% economists expected. Prices were up 0.5% from the same period the year before in the first annual increase since September 2010.

The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence fell to 60.6 in August from a downwardly revised 65.4 in July. The reading came in below expectations of 66.

On the European front, Catalonia, a region in Spain, asked the country for a roughly $6.3 billion rescue. Spain already has a fund set up to help its ailing regions, but it comes as yet another reminder that the debt crisis is affecting even the bloc's biggest economies.

In corporate news, Lexmark (NYSE:LXK) said it would slice 1,700 jobs as it shifts out of producing inkjet print cartridges.

Oil prices edged up as traders kept a close eye on Tropical Storm Isaac that has disrupted close to 80% of production in the Gulf of Mexico. The benchmark contract traded in New York climbed 69 cents, or 0.72%, to $96.16 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.86% to $3.128 a gallon.

In metals, gold fell $11.30, or 0.67%, to $1,664 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.8% to 2442, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.02% to 5776 and the German DAX slumped 0.64% to 7003.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 drifted lower by 0.57% to 9033 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.07% to 19812.