Stocks waver, with hard-to-read signs on economy

Associated Press
FILE -- A July 26, 2012 file photo shows trader Sean Spain working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A stock market rally lost steam Wednesday Aug. 8, 2012 after mixed earnings from U.S. companies added to fears about Europe's economic slowdown.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew/file)
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FILE -- A July 26, 2012 file photo shows trader Sean Spain working on the floor of the New York Stock …

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are dawdling between small gains and losses as investors are unable to decide what to focus on: encouraging news about the U.S. economy, or worrisome signs from China and elsewhere.

At midday Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average is down 44 points at 13,128. The Standard & Poor's 500 is down three points at 1,399. The Nasdaq composite index fell one point to 3,009.

In the U.S., the government reported that the trade deficit fell to the lowest level in 18 months. That's generally considered a good sign for the economy. But exports to China, which has driven the global economy even as other countries have stumbled, dropped 4 percent.

E-Trade is up 6 percent after ousting its CEO. The reasons for the dismissal weren't immediately clear.

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