NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished little changed Thursday in choppy trade as retail sales bested expectations, even as leading department stores reported lower profits.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 17,408.25, up 5.74 points (0.03 per cent).
The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 2.66 (0.13 per cent) to 2,083.39, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 10.83 (0.21 per cent) at 5,033.56.
Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were in positive territory much of the day.
US retail sales rose 0.6 per cent in July from June levels, to US$446.5 billion (S$624.4 billion), beating expectations and sparking speculation that the Federal Reserve could lift interest rates as soon as September.
But department store Kohl's shares tumbled 8.8 per cent as it reported lower-than-expected earnings, with second-quarter net income falling 44 per cent to US$130 million.
Dillard's, another department store, also reported lower profits, with net income dropping 13.3 per cent to US$29.9 million. That translated into 75 cents per share, three cents above expectations. Shares of Dillard's rose 2.4 per cent.
Dow member Cisco Systems jumped 2.9 per cent as it reported that earnings for the quarter ending July 25 came in at 59 cents per share, three cents above analyst expectations.
News Corp gained 7.6 per cent despite reporting a loss of US$379 million for the quarter ending June 30 due to a writedown of its Amplify digital education business. Excluding charges, earnings translated to seven cents per share, two cents above analyst estimates.
Solar company SunEdison rose 5.2 per cent after analyst reports from Credit Suisse and RBC Capital suggested a recent sell-off in the stock was excessive, with RBC saying the company is "well prepared to weather a perfect storm" of challenges.
Advance Auto Parts surged 9.2 per cent after reporting second-quarter earnings rose 7.5 per cent to US$150 million.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.18 per cent from 2.15 per cent, while the 30-year advanced to 2.86 per cent from 2.84 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.