Stocks are flat in the early going on Wall Street

Stocks little changed in early trading on Wall Street; big gains for Best Buy, CVS Caremark

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks opened close to break-even Thursday after the government said weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell to the second-lowest level this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up seven points at 13,252 after the first half-hour of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up a fraction at 1,428. The Nasdaq composite index was down a fraction at 3,014.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply for the fourth straight week. Applications fell 29,000 last week to 343,000, the second-lowest this year.

Industrial stocks rose the most and energy stocks fell the most, but no category of stock moved more than half a percent.

CVS Caremark climbed $2.04, or 4.3 percent, to $49.58 after predicting profit next year that was ahead of Wall Street expectations. The company also raised its dividend.

Best Buy jumped $2.15, or 17 percent, to $14.32 after a newspaper reported that the founder of the troubled electronics chain will make a bid of up to $6 billion for the company by the end of the week.

As they have since Election Day, investors waited for signs of progress in Washington budget talks. Tax increases and government spending cuts kick in Jan. 1 unless Congress and the White House reach a deal to avert them.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average declined for the first day in five. Stocks rallied in the afternoon after the Federal Reserve tied its pledge of super-low interest rates to an improvement in the unemployment rate, but the rally faded.

The Fed said it would hold interest rates super-low until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5 percent, a threshold the Fed believes may not be breached until the end of 2015. The rate is 7.7 percent today.

Google gained $9.84, or 1.5 percent, to $707.40 after releasing an updated map application for the iPhone. Google Maps came pre-loaded on previous iPhones but was dropped for the much-derided Apple Maps earlier this year.

SolarCity, a company that installs rooftop solar panels, was expected to start trading later Wednesday on the Nasdaq under the symbol "SCTY." The shares were initially priced at $8. Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, is the chairman of SolarCity.

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