Stocks erased their early gains Thursday, despite a pair of better-than-expected economic data and a day after major averages logged a massive post-election drop.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average bobbed in and out of negative territory, after plummeting more than 300 points in the previous session. Caterpillar (CAT) was the biggest blue-chip laggard, while Bank of America (BAC) gained.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also shaved their gains. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded below 19.
Among key S&P sectors, energy turned lower, while utilities held small gains.
On the economic front, jobless claims fell 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000 in the previous week, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected a reading of 370,000. The four-week moving average rose 3,250 to 370,500.
And the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in September to $41.55 billion as exports increased, according to the Commerce Department, suggesting the economy expanded more than previously believed in the third quarter. Analysts expected the gap to widen to $45.0 billion.
Stocks took a sharp 2-percent nosedive in a post-election selloff Wednesday, with the Dow logging its biggest decline in nearly a year, prompted by concerns over the looming "fiscal cliff" and amid renewed worries over Europe's weak economy.
Among earnings, Qualcomm (QCOM) soared to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the semiconductor company posted quarterly results that beat expectations and handed in better-than-expected current quarter and full-year profit and sales guidance.
Kohl's (KSS) posted slightly higher earnings and the department store chain forecast same-stores sales will rise during the current holiday quarter.
Dean Foods (DF) jumped after the food and beverage company topped earnings expectations and raised its full-year forecast.
Apple (AAPL) hovered around the flatline a day after the tech giant finished down 20 percent from its high, closing in bear market territory.
JPMorgan (JPM) gained after the financial giant said U.S. regulators approved a plan for the company to use its capital to buy back its stock in the first quarter of 2013.
McDonald's (MCD) edged lower after the fast-food giant posted its first monthly sales drop in nine years.
European shares (FTSE International: .FTEU3) gained after the Greek parliament passed further austerity measures by a narrow margin.
The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at a record low of 0.75 percent as expected. ECB President Mario Draghi said growth momentum in the euro zone was expected to remain weak.
"Economic activity in the euro area is expected to remain weak although it continues to be supported by our monetary policy stance and financial market confidence has visibly improved on the back of our decisions as regards Outright Monetary Transactions," said Draghi at a press conference, referring to the bank's bond buying program unveiled in September.
The government is scheduled to auction $16 billion in 30-year bonds, with the results available shortly after 1pm ET.
-By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: 30-yr bond auction, Kellogg analyst day, 3M investor mtg, OPEC press conference; Earnings from Disney, Groupon, Nordstrom, Nvidia, Kayak, Zipcar
FRIDAY: Import/export prices, consumer sentiment, wholesale trade; Earnings from JCPenney
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