Stocks flat after day of big gains

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Stocks indexes were little changed Wednesday following a big gain the day before. Gains by retailers offset a decline in banking and financial stocks. Most other sectors were flat.

The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 3 points to 12,400 as of 12:30 p.m. Trading was relatively subdued following a surge of nearly 180 points the day before, which brought the Dow to its highest level since July. The Dow started the day lower, losing as many as 60 points in mid-morning trading, then went back to breakeven shortly after noon.

The Standard & Poors 500 index was down less than a point at 1,276, while the Nasdaq fell 2 points to 2,646.

Phone equipment maker Acme Packet Inc. plunged almost 20 percent after saying its quarterly profit and revenue would be well below analyst expectations.

Yahoo Inc. fell 2 percent after it named Scott Thompson, president of eBay Inc.’s PayPal division, as its new CEO. Yahoo has been without a permanent CEO since firing Carol Bartz in September. The company’s board lost patience with her attempts to turn around the struggling Internet company during her 2 ½ years on the job.

European markets fell after the euro weakened to $1.29 versus the dollar from $1.30 the day before. Another increase in Italy’s long-term borrowing rates renewed worries about Europe’s flailing efforts to restore investors’ confidence in the region’s governments.

Germany’s DAX fell 0.8 percent, while the CAC-40 in France fell 1.5 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British stocks was down 0.6 percent.

Retailers were among the few industries to rise after a trade group for malls said sales rose 5.3 percent in the last week of December because of strong after-Christmas shopping. Lowe’s Cos. rose 1.5 percent and Ross Stores Inc. rose 2.3 percent. However, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell 1.3 percent, making it the biggest decliner among the Dow’s 30 stocks. Analysts have been concerned that some retailers boosted holiday sales with deep discounts that will hurt profits.

Ford Motor Co. rose 2.4 percent after the auto maker said last year’s sales jumped 11 percent because of strong demand for trucks and SUVs. December sales rose 10 percent. Chrysler, owned by Italy’s Fiat, said sales rose 26 percent for the year and 37 percent in January. General Motors Co. said U.S. sales rose 13 percent last year. Analysts have been expecting December to be a strong sales month for the U.S. auto business as confidence in the economy unlocks pent-up demand.

Fallen photography pioneer Eastman Kodak Co. lost 2 cents to 64 cents after the company said its stock could be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange if it doesn’t rise above $1 in the next six months.

U.S. stocks opened the year with a bang on Tuesday. The Dow and S&P 500 each rose 1.5 percent after a measure of U.S. manufacturing expanded at the fastest rate in six months.