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S&P 500 marks first weekly loss in July

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

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

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

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.

Expedia plunged 27 percent, the worst fall in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The online travel agency reported earnings late Thursday that badly missed analysts' expectations. Higher costs were the main culprit. Expedia lost $17.80 to $47.20.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up 1.40 points, or 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, less than 0.1 percent, to 15,558.83. The Nasdaq composite index edged up 7.98 points, or 0.2 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. At the start of July, they predicted earnings would rise 2.8 percent. Nearly seven out of every 10 companies have surpassed Wall Street's profit targets.

Investors often argue that analysts set the bar for earnings so low that most companies are bound to jump over it. On average, more than six of every 10 companies beat Wall Street's targets every quarter.

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