The market paused Thursday as investors digested the latest developments in Ukraine, new economic data and a slew of corporate earnings.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) ended flat, but the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 3 points and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 21.
The Nasdaq was led by Apple (AAPL), which jumped more than 8 percent after posting better than expected earnings, declaring a big stock split and buying back another $30 billion in stock.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Amazon.com (AMZN) rose 4 percent, but Netflix (NFLX) fell nearly 3 percent. It's down for a second day in a row on Amazon's deal to carry many of HBO's older shows. Content is king for these firms, and Amazon has been racking up some big victories lately.
Facebook (FB) was slightly lower even though earnings tripled from a year ago, on strong advertising revenue. Facebook shareholders have nothing to complain about. Over the past year, the stock has soared more than 130 percent.
Caterpillar (CAT) was one of the best performers on the Dow 30. It gained 2 percent as earnings easily beat expectations and the company raised its outlook for the year. But that was offset by Verizon (VZ), which fell 2.5 percent, as earnings come in a bit short. 3M (MMM), meanwhile, fell 1 percent. Its earnings were slightly below expectations.
Also on the earnings scorecard:
United Continental Holdings (UAL) slid 10 percent after posting a big loss.
General Motors (GM) fell by less than 1 percent. Earnings were solid, but revenue was weak.
It was the same story for Qualcomm (QCOM). It fell 3.5 percent, as net beat the Street, but revenue fell short.
On the upside, Aetna (AET) gained 6 percent as earnings topped expectations, while homebuilder D.R. Horton (DHI) jumped 8 percent. Its profit rose, helped by rising home prices. That boosted Lennar (LEN) and other builders.
Elsewhere, Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) -- known for its artificial knees and hips -- rose 11 percent after agreeing to buy privately owned Biomet. And Elizabeth Arden (RDEN) jumped for a second day in a row, up 13 percent today on a report it hired Goldman Sachs to advise it about a potential bid to be acquired.
What to Watch Friday:
The University of Michigan releases its final survey of consumer sentiment for April at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
These major companies are due to release quarterly financial statements:
After Market: Concern Over Ukraine Restrains Stock Gains
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back."
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes Mint.com spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more.
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt.
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.