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Stock indexes edge lower as investors eye earnings

| Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, 10:18 p.m.
Customers arrive at a J.C. Penney store in New York on April 9, 2013. J.C. Penney said Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, that a pickup in sales helped trim the department store’s second-quarter loss from a year earlier.
Customers arrive at a J.C. Penney store in New York on April 9, 2013. J.C. Penney said Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, that a pickup in sales helped trim the department store’s second-quarter loss from a year earlier.

Wall Street capped a record-setting week with a day of mostly listless trading Friday that left the three major U.S. stock indexes essentially flat.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed slightly lower. The Nasdaq composite eked out a tiny gain, giving the tech-heavy index its fourth record-high close in a week.

Investors mostly focused on the latest batch of company earnings from retailers and other companies, as well as data showing that retail sales held steady in July from the previous month as Americans spent less at grocery stores, clothing shops, sporting goods and electronics and appliance outlets.

Materials companies fell the most. Energy stocks led the gainers as crude oil prices rose again.

The retail sales data might have dimmed some traders' views on the economy, but most of the selling was likely a reflection of some investors locking in profits while the market remains near its high, said JJ Kinahan, TD Ameritrade's chief strategist.

“It's a summer Friday on a week that we were higher,” Kinahan said. “It's more of a ‘Why take unnecessary risks? Take some profits; go home happy.' ”

The Dow fell 37.05 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,576.47. The S&P 500 index lost 1.74 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,184.05. The declines pulled the indexes slightly below their all-time highs, set Thursday.

The Nasdaq bucked the trend, adding 4.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,232.89. The Nasdaq closed at a record last Friday, Tuesday and Thursday. It's now up 11 percent over the past seven weeks, the longest winning streak for the index in more than four years.

This year, the Dow is up 6.6 percent, the S&P 500 has gained 6.9 percent and the Nasdaq is up 4.5 percent.

Strong job growth, stabler oil prices and a crop of better-than-expected company earnings have helped lift stocks in recent weeks.

This week, investors had their eyes on the health of retailers. They welcomed the latest quarterly snapshots for Macy's, Kohl's and Nordstrom, sending their shares higher.

Some of that continued Friday as traders cheered results from Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Dillard's.

Nordtsrom surged 8 percent a day after the department store chain reported earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations. The company also raised its profit guidance for the year. The stock gained $3.82 to $51.38.

J.C. Penney said a pickup in sales helped trim the chain's second-quarter loss from a year earlier. The stock added 61 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $10.55. Dillard's rose 3.4 percent after the retailer posted a second-quarter profit that was larger than analysts expected. Its shares gained $2.26 to $68.67.

Industrial and drilling companies were among the biggest decliners.

Transocean slid the most among stocks in the S&P 500, shedding 47 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $9.90. Steel products manufacturer Nucor fell $1.66, or 3.2 percent, to $50.69, while Alcoa slipped 25 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $10.17.

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