Investors applauded the earnings and outlooks of Walt Disney and Time Warner, yet Wall Street failed to find momentum amid renewed concern about Europe's ability to commit to the austerity required to kick-start the region's economy.
Shares of Walt Disney gained, last up 1.2 per cent to US$54.93 after earlier rising as high as US$55.50, after the company's quarterly profit surpassed expectations and painted a positive picture of its outlook.
"We're very pleased with our first-quarter results, which set the stage for continued growth in 2013, following a year of record revenue, net income and earnings per share in 2012," Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo told analysts during a call, according to Reuters.
Time Warner earnings also beat estimates, boosting its shares 4.2 per cent. The company also lifted its dividend and announced a new share buyback program.
"The big surprise here is the incremental return of capital to shareholders with the new dividend and buyback," Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible told Reuters.
And shares of Hewlett-Packard gained, last up 1 per cent, amid reports the company is considering a breakup.
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a 0.04 per cent gain, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index edged 0.02 per cent higher, and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.08 per cent.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.4 per cent drop from the previous close. Equities also fell in Frankfurt and Paris, closing 1.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent weaker respectively. London gained 0.2 per cent.
Weighing on the mood in the euro zone is the increasing popularity of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi ahead of elections later this month. A poll by Tecne institute for SkyTG24 showed that Berlusconi is closing the gap on front-runner Pier Luigi Bersani to 0.3 percentage points.
Berlusconi's policies are at odds with the austerity sought by European Union leaders as they continue to battle the region's debt crisis and revive growth in its economy.
EU leaders are set to start a two-day meeting on Thursday aimed at finding agreement over the bloc's next budget.
Policy makers at the European Central Bank are also meeting tomorrow, as are their counterparts at the Bank of England.
The euro weakened against the greenback, last 0.4 per cent lower at US$1.3526.
The yen continued its slide against the US dollar amid signs of aggressive monetary easing ahead. Yesterday Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa announced that he would step down next month, three weeks before the official end of his term.
"It's the equivalent of waving a white flag for unconditional surrender," Shuichi Obata, senior economist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. "Shirakawa didn't share the government's view that the central bank is responsible for ending deflation."
Liberty Global confirmed it is buying Virgin Media for about US$15.75 billion in stock and cash in a deal that it is worth more than US$23 billion including debt and is aimed at growing the US company's share of the European market.