Stocks little changed in light trading

Specialists work at the Barclays post on the

Specialists work at the Barclays post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange earlier in the week - on a day when stocks closed mostly lower, with weak earnings. Stocks got off to a weak start Friday morning. (July 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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A mixed batch of earnings results gave investors little direction Friday as traders began looking ahead to a packed schedule next week.

The stock market slumped in early trading, climbed steadily the rest of the day, then ended little changed.

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Volume was thin as traders prepared for a deluge of potentially market-moving events next week: a Federal Reserve meeting, the government's monthly employment report and much more.

"Traders seem to be erring on the side of caution today," said Jeffrey Kleintop, the chief market strategist for LPL Financial.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up 0.08 percent to 1,691.65. The index ended the week with a tiny loss, the first this month. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.22 points to 15,558.83. The Nasdaq composite index edged up 0.22 percent to 3,613.16.

It's halftime in the second-quarter earnings season, and corporate profits are shaping up better than some had feared.

Analysts forecast that earnings for companies in the S&P 500 increased 4.5 percent over the same period in 2012, according to S&P Capital IQ. Nearly seven out of every 10 companies have surpassed Wall Street's profit targets. -- AP

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