NEW YORK - Stocks ended flat on Friday as investors shrugged off encouraging economic signs and a tax-cut package expected to lift economic growth. Trading ended shortly before President Obama signed the tax bill into law.
The $858 billion package extends Bush-era tax cuts for two more years and extends expiring unemployment benefits through next year. House Democrats had pledged to block the tax proposal, a compromise worked out between Obama and Senate Republicans. But the House passed the bill late Thursday night. Critics said the expected boost to economic growth did not justify the cost.
In a hopeful sign for the economy, the Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 1.1 percent in November, the fastest pace since March. The index - which tracks data such as orders for new goods and materials - rose 0.4 percent in October.
Stocks wavered in a tight range Friday, a day after major indexes hit two-year highs.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.34 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 11,491.91.
The broader S&P 500 eked out another 2010 high. The index rose 1.04, or 0.08 percent, to close at 1,243.91. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.66, or 0.2 percent, to 2,642.97.
The Dow gained 0.7 percent for the week. The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.2 percent.
Bond yields fell at the end of this year's last full week of trading. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 3.33, after notching a seven-month high of 3.56 percent Thursday. The 10-year yield is widely used by lenders to set borrowing rates for mortgages, corporate debt, and other loans.
Boeing Co. rose 1 percent to $65.03 to lead the 30 stocks that make up the Dow. American Express Co. was the index's laggard. It fell 1.3 percent to $44.01.
Canadian bank BMO Financial Group said it would buy Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp. for $4.1 billion in stock. BMO, which operates the Bank of Montreal, said it would repay the preferred shares that Marshall & Ilsley issued as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program before the deal closes in July. Shares of Marshall & Ilsley bounced 18.3 percent to $6.85.
Oracle Corp.'s stock jumped 3.9 percent to $31.46. After the market closed Thursday, the software giant reported a 28 percent rise in net income last quarter.
Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, also said late Thursday that its third-quarter earnings beat analyst expectations. The company's stock rose 1.6 percent to $60.20.
But AstraZeneca P.L.C. closed down $5.79 at $46.38. The pharmaceutical company, which has operations near Wilmington, said the Food and Drug Administration had extended its review of the experimental blood thinner Brilinta, a potential blockbuster drug.
Accenture P.L.C. closed up $3.65 at $50.32. Shares of the management consulting firm hit a record high after the company raised its earnings outlook for 2011.
The dollar rose 0.3 percent against an index of six countries' currencies.