U.S. stock prices finished higher Wednesday, but it was not easy. The blue chips struggled to move into positive territory, as investors pondered the latest earnings news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a 5 point gain, closing at 9,345. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up just a fraction, less than a point, while the tech-weighted Nasdaq composite scored bigger, moving up 1.5 percent.
Earnings warnings from several Dow components limited gains for the Industrials. AT&T reported a steep drop in third-quarter results, and said its core telephone business will likely suffer through next year.
It was not a pretty picture at Eastman-Kodak either. The largest photography company warned its fourth quarter profits will be about a third of forecasts. Eastman Kodak is also eliminating up to 4,000 jobs.
And U.S. chemical company DuPont reported its profits plunged 75 percent.
Analysts say it was a lot for investors to think about.
Veteran market watcher Art Cashin says the market's narrow trading range hardly comes as a surprise, given investor uncertainty.
"They can't break down. They can't break out, and they can't break loose," says Mr. Cashin. "People just can't decide where to go. They're kind of trapped with some of this geopolitical, terror related stuff. The earnings picture is kind of a mixed bag. So, it's nothing but indecision down here."
An economic survey just released by the U.S. government shows that every segment of the U.S. economy was affected in some way by the terrorist attacks of September 11. Among the hardest hit were the airlines, as people canceled travel plans and reportedly remain reluctant to get on those airplanes any time soon.
Airline stocks came under more pressure Wednesday after American Airlines, the number one U.S. carrier, posted the biggest quarterly loss in its history.