U.S. Markets closed

US stocks are mostly flat in midday trading

Bernard Condon, AP Business Writer

In this Wednesday, April 24, 2013, photo, Kenneth Polcari, right, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Japan's benchmark stock index surged Friday May 10, 2013 after the dollar hit a four-year high against the yen. Markets elsewhere gained as traders digested a positive U.S. jobs report. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market wavered between small gains and losses Friday but is still on track to finish the week higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31 points to 15,051 shortly after noon Eastern Daylight Time. The Dow is up 0.5 percent for the week and 15 percent so far this year. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 was down 1 point to 1,625.

The price of commodities including crude oil and gold fell sharply as the dollar continued to strengthen against other currencies, especially the Japanese yen.

Priceline.com and chip maker Nvidia both rose 4 percent after reporting higher earnings. Priceline jumped $30.50 to $768 and Nvidia was up 57 cents to $14.48.

Clothing store chain Gap rose after reporting higher sales in April and predicting first-quarter earnings that were higher than financial analysts expected. Gap rose $2.01 to $40.82, or 5 percent.

Nearly all companies in the S&P 500 have reported first quarter earnings. The average net income for companies in the index is expected to rise 5 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm. But revenue has fallen short in many cases, suggesting that companies are mostly cutting expenses to post higher profits.

Some investors are worried that companies won't be able to keep cutting and profit growth will slow, but stocks have gone higher anyway.

"The talk at the end of April was company earnings are slowing ... and it seemed like we'd have another 'Sell in May,' " said Gary Flam, who manages stock portfolios at Bel Air Investment Advisors. "But clearly that's not been the case in the first ten days."

The S&P had risen every day since the beginning of the month until Thursday, when it fell six points. The Dow rose above 15,000 for the first time Tuesday and it's stayed there since. The Nasdaq is at 12-year highs.

Flam speculates that stocks are rising partly because of a shift this year in investor attitudes toward the market.

"The last few years, risk was defined as losing money," he said. "The last few months, it's been defined as not making money."

Six of the ten industry groups in the S&P 500 index were higher at midday. Health care stocks rose the most, 0.4 percent.

The Nasdaq composite index was up 10 points at 3,419.

One dollar was worth 101.50 yen, more than the 100.54 yen it bought late Thursday. The yen has been weakening since last fall as the Bank of Japan floods the Japanese economy with cash in an effort to shake the country out of a two-decade slump.

Japanese stocks surged. A weaker yen is a boon to Japanese exporters of cars, electronics and other goods because they can charge cheaper prices in overseas markets. Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 2.9 percent to close at 14,607, its highest level since January 2008.

Prices for crude oil and gold fell sharply. Crude fell $2.03 to $94.36 a barrel in New York, a loss of 2.1 percent. Gold fell $35 to $1,433 an ounce, or 2.4 percent.

When the dollar rises against other currencies, it tends to weaken demand for commodities. Since commodities are priced in dollars, buyers using other currencies get less for their money when the dollar appreciates, and they respond by buying less.

Among other stocks in the news:

— True Religion Apparel, known for high-priced jeans, rose 2.16, or 7.3 percent, to $31.60 after announcing it had agreed to a buyout offer of about $826 million from the investment management firm TowerBrook Capital Partners LP.

— Dell climbed after activist investor Carl Icahn and another big investor fighting founder Michael Dell's offer to take the company private launched another broadside against the plan. In a letter to Dell's board, they proposed a deal that would keep the company public and pay shareholders cash or stock worth $12 a share. Dell rose to 12 cents, or 1 percent, to $13.44 per share.