A surprise jump in applications for unemployment benefits and mixed earnings from large U.S. companies kept stocks on a short leash Thursday. Indexes ended slightly higher, with the Standard & Poor's 500 closing a half point below 1,300.
The Dow Jones industrial average traded above 12,000 for most of the day but failed to close above that level for the second day in a row. The Dow hasn't closed above 12,000 since June 19, 2008, just as the financial crisis was worsening.
The S&P 500 rose 2.91 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 1,299.54. The last time the index closed above 1,300 was Aug. 28, 2008.
The Dow inched up 4.39 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 11,989.83. The index broke through 12,000 Wednesday for the first time since June 2008 but slipped in the late afternoon. It has gained 18.5 percent in the past year.
The Nasdaq composite index gained 15.78, or 0.6 percent, to 2,755.28.