--Stocks end mixed; DJIA slips, S&P 500 notches slim gain
--McDonald's leads DJIA lower; GE posts firm gain
--Retail-sales reading meets expectations
NEW YORK--McDonald's declines led the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower, while strength in the industrial giants like General Electric helped the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index eke out a fresh multiyear high.
The Dow fell 35.79 points, or 0.3%, to 13982.91, while the S&P 500 rose 0.90 point, or less than 0.1%, to 1520.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 10.38 points, or 0.3%, to 3196.88.
General Electric was the best-performing Dow stock, rising 81 cents, or 3.6%, to $23.39, after agreeing to sell Comcast the remaining 49% of NBCUniversal the cable operator doesn't already own for $16.7 billion. Comcast climbed 1.16, or 3%, to 40.13.
The Dow was hurt by pullbacks in stocks like McDonald's, which declined 1.10, or 1.2%, to 94.00, and Boeing, a stock that dropped 72 cents, or 1%, 74.78. Analysts said that McDonald's and other fast-food stocks were pressured by comments from President Barack Obama in Tuesday's State of the Union speech that called for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Burger King Worldwide slumped 8 cents, or 0.5%, to 16.31 and Wendy's declined 3 cents, or 0.6%, to 5.25.
By far the worst-performing stock on the S&P 500 was Cliffs Natural Resources, which plunged 7.32, or 20%, to 29.29, after the iron-ore miner unveiled plans to sell shares and cut its quarterly dividend.
A strong start for stocks this year has driven the Dow up 6.7% so far this year. It remains within striking distance of an all-time high.
"We're reaching a little bit of a stalemate between bulls and bears at this point," said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo's funds unit, which manages about $200 billion. "The bears are saying we're just rising on hot air. Some of the bulls are saying the market has gone up so much, I'll wait until it goes down so I have a better chance to buy it."
On the economic front, U.S. retail sales edged up in January, the Commerce Department reported, in line with economists' estimates. The reading was closely watched as it was the first since payroll-tax increases kicked in, trimming most Americans' paychecks.
"U.S. retail sales were better than many had feared," said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. "There was some nervousness that the fallout of the payroll taxes would show up in retail sales, so today's data is encouraging."
In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 erased losses to rise 0.4%, after euro-zone industrial production rose more than expected in December. Still, the overall decline for the fourth quarter was at the steepest quarterly rate in more than three years. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 advanced 0.3% to finish at its highest level since May 2008.
In Asia, Japanese stocks fell as overnight strength in the yen, since evaporated, hurt exporter shares. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average shed 1%. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9% to its highest level since September 2008. Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.
The dollar rose against the yen but slipped versus the euro. Crude-oil prices declined 0.5%, to settle at $97.01 a barrel, while gold fell 0.3%, to settle at $1,644.20 a troy ounce. The 10-year Treasury note fell in price to yield 2.017%.
In other corporate news, Best Buy slumped 31 cents, or 2%, to 15.12, after The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported that the electronics retailer's founder and largest shareholder, Richard Schulze, is reconsidering a plan to take the company private.
Dean Foods, stumbled 1.69, or 9.2%, 16.70, after the largest U.S. milk processor by sales issued a profit forecast that trailed analysts' predictions.
Cigarette maker Lorillard jumped 1.96, or 4.9%, to 41.68 after the company raised its quarterly dividend and reported results that topped analysts' estimates.
Data-center operator Rackspace Hosting plummeted 14.68, or 20%, to 60.30 on a smaller-than-expected increase in sales.
Trulia, the real-estate listings website that went public in September, leapt 5.21, or 22%, to 29.00 after reporting a bigger-than-expected increase in quarterly revenue.
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