U.S. stocks wavered in mid-day trading, with S&P 500 Index inching 0.04 percent lower to trade at 1,323.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.19 percent to 12,692.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.24 percent to 2,855.24.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke assessment of the economy failed to enthuse sentiment. Over the past two and a half years, the U.S. economy has been gradually recovering from the recent deep recession, though the pace of the recovery has been frustratingly slow, according to Bernanke's prepared testimony before the House Budget Committee.
On the economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits dropped below forecast, a government data showed. Jobless claims fell 12,000 to 367,000 last week from a revised 379,000 in the previous period, while economists projected a decline to 375,000. The four-week moving average for claims declined 2,000 to 375,750 last week, a data from the Labor Department showed.
Meanwhile, fourth quarter non-farm business productivity slowed down to 0.7 percent growth from a 1.9 percent advance in the third quarter, while unit labor costs increased 1.2 percent after a 2.1 percent drop in the previous period, a government data showed.
In corporate news, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) slumped 11.7 percent to $41.33 after the specialty retailer guided fourth-quarter non-GAAP earnings per share of around $1.10 to $1.15, below consensus of $1.55. Net sales grew 16 percent to $1.329 billion, but below expectations of $1.38 billion. The company blamed high promotional environment and all-time high cotton costs for weaker-than-forecast sales.
MasterCard Inc. (NYSE:MA) rose 5.2 percent to $376.15 after the payment processor posted stronger-than-expected earnings. Excluding items, the company earned $4.03 a share, versus expectations of $3.91 per share.
Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) surged 9.1 percent to $21.22 after the apparel retailer guided fourth-quarter earnings between $0.41 and $0.42, above First Call consensus of $0.35.
Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) rose 2.67 percent to $61.15 after the chip maker's first quarter earnings beat expectations and the company raised its 2012 forecast. The company posted non-GAAP EPS of 97 cents, topping Wall Street projections of 90 cents. It now sees 2012 non-GAAP EPS of $3.55 to $3.75 from prior view of $3.42 to $3.62. Qualcomm also guided second-quarter above consensus.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (NASDAQ:GMCR) surged 19.4 percent to $64.05 after the company's first-quarter results sailed past analysts' estimates, spurred by jump in sales of K-cup portions. The company earned $0.60 per share on an adjusted basis, beating expectations of $0.36 per share.
Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) gained 7.67 percent to $19.85 after the video-game publisher posted better-than-expected quarterly results. For the third quarter, the company earned 99 cents a share on a non-GAAP basis, versus analysts' projections of 93 cents. However, the company guided fourth quarter below consensus.
JDS Uniphase Corp. (NASDAQ:JDSU) tumbled 5.7 percent to $12.37. The company’s second-quarter gross margin contracted to 46.8 percent from 47.3 percent in the previous quarter and 48.8 percent in the year-ago period.
Meanwhile, Facebook Inc. filed for an initial public offering seeking to raise $5 billion, which should mark as one of the largest ever for a technology company. The social-networking site’s monthly active users jumped 39 percent to 845 million as of December 2011.
The European markets ended higher, with Germany's DAX up 0.62 percent to end at 6,657.40. France's CAC40 gained 0.28 percent to 3,376.92. Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.02 percent higher to 5,792.15.
In the Asian market, China's SSE Composite Index gained 1.92 percent to finish at 2,311.69 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 2.00 percent to close at 20,739.45. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.76 percent to end at 8,876.82. India's BSE 30 Sensex finished 0.76 percent higher at 17,431.85.
In the currency market, the euro inched 0.02 percent higher against the U.S. dollar to 1.3164, while the British pound weakened 0.13 percent against the greenback. The dollar declined 0.07 percent against the Japanese yen to 76.1375.
Crude oil futures lost 1.64 percent lower to $96.01/barrel, while gold futures gained 0.49 percent.