Major indexes flitted between tiny gains and losses in the morning, rallied a bit after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its last meeting, then petered out toward the close. The Standard and Poor’s 500 ended lower, but barely — down just 0.09 percent.
It was the fourth day in a row that the index moved less than one-half of one percentage point.
The S&P 500 closed down 1.98 points to 2,125.85. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 26.99 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,285.40. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.71 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 5,071.74.
Stocks fell from the opening of trading as investors weighed the latest batch of earnings reports for the first quarter. Etsy plunged 18 percent after its first earnings report as a publicly traded company showed a hefty quarterly loss. Stock in the e-commerce retailer of crafts dropped $3.80 to $17.20.
With most companies out with their results, earnings per share for S&P 500 stocks are expected to have risen 3 percent from a year ago, according to S&P Capital IQ, a data provider. That is better than the drop that financial analysts had been predicted in early March, but still low by recent standards.
More worrisome for markets, analysts have been slashing their forecasts for future quarters, too. At the beginning of 2015, they were expecting a 7 percent jump in S&P 500 earnings for the full year. Now they expect an increase of less than 1 percent.
The tiny move down for the Dow on Wednesday came after four straight gains.
Among stocks making moves:
• Staples fell 26 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $16.15 after reporting a sharp drop in first-quarter earnings.
• Lowe’s sank 4.6 percent on earnings and revenue that fell short of what analysts were looking for. Stock of the home-improvement retailer fell $3.33 to $68.50.
In Europe, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent. Germany’s DAX was flat.
The price of oil rose for the first time in a week after the Energy Department reported a surprisingly large drop in supplies of both crude oil and fuels. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 99 cents to close at $58.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.01 to close at $65.03 in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
• Wholesale gasoline rose 4.6 cents to close at $2.041 a gallon.
• Heating oil rose 1.7 cents to close at $1.946 a gallon.
• Natural gas fell 3.3 cents to close at $2.915 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In currency markets, the dollar strengthened to 121.32 yen from 120.67 yen. The euro declined to $1.1095 from $1.1147.
The price of U.S. government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.26 percent from 2.30 percent late Tuesday.
Precious and industrial metals prices closed little changed. Gold rose $2 to $1,208.70 an ounce, silver rose four cents to $17.11 an ounce, and copper edged down less than a penny to $2.83 a pound.