Global equities remain stuck in a holding pattern, though on balance bolstered overnight by solid corporate results, helping to offset increasing uncertainty about the pending US presidential election.
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 10.79 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 13,088.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 3.32 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 1,412.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 2.94 points, or 0.10 per cent, to 2,984.63.
The benchmark S&P 500 has shed 3.6 per cent over the previous five sessions - its worst performance since mid-May. The broad index is down 3.7 per cent from its closing high of September 14, Reuters data shows, following weak earnings outlooks and sales misses by large multinational companies.
On the corporate front today, Ford said it would close another plant in Europe and forecast a combined US$3 billion of losses from its European operations this year and next.
A drop in advertising sales hit quarterly revenue at The New York Times Co, sending the stock sharply lower.
However, it wasn't all bad news. Procter & Gamble reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit. Insurer Aetna posted a higher profit defying forecasts for a decline.
Apple is set to report results after the market close.
"The market is zigzagging each day on earnings," Paul Zemsky, the New York-based head of asset allocation for ING Investment Management, told Bloomberg. "Earnings did come out better-than- estimated yet revenue surprises are negative.
The narrative was similar elsewhere.
Shares in Europe edged higher - the FTSEurofirst300 index gained 0.2 per cent to close at 1,095.90 - with positive results from BASF, Unilever and Sanofi pacing the gains. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index increased 0.7 per cent to 271.41 at 3.09pm in London.
There appears to be some brightening of the outlook for the EU's debt crisis with signs that Ireland has passed its latest bailout review, and Greece appears set to receive more time to meet fiscal targets as defined in its bailout terms.
Also on the economic front, Britain has emerged from recession. The Olympics helped the UK economy expand by 1 per cent in the latest quarter.
Perhaps in keeping with the US Federal Reserve's cautious commentary yesterday, American businesses remain wary.
New orders for capital goods outside of defence and excluding aircraft - a proxy for business spending plans - was unchanged last month at US$60.3 billion, Commerce Department data showed. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a modest gain.