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The close: S&P 500 ends flat as volatility index slumps to near 5-year lows

Traders work the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Dec. 20, 2012. Analysts expect fourth-quarter earnings for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to increase 3.28 per cent, said Christine Short, a senior manager at S&P Global Markets Intelligence. That’s an improvement from essentially flat profits in the third quarter.

ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS

Major North American indexes turned in another uneventful session on Wednesday, despite quarterly earnings from key U.S. financials, another setback for Boeing Co. and a rebound by Apple Inc.

The S&P 500 closed at 1472.63, up 0.29 point or nearly zero per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,511.23, down 22.35 points or 0.2 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,608.82, down 33.15 points or 0.3 per cent.

For the S&P 500, the day's move marked the fifth straight session in which the benchmark index hasn't strayed far from 1472. The CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, reflects the smooth sailing, falling to 13.40 or close to a five-year low.

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In the United States, the consumer price index was unchanged in December over the previous month, while the year-over-year gain subsided to 1.7 per cent. Economists had been expecting a year-over-year rate of 1.8 per cent.

The World Bank cut its forecast for global economic growth in 2013, to just 2.4 per cent from a June forecast of 3 per cent.

"Overall, the global economic environment remains fragile and prone to further disappointment, although the balance of risks is now less skewed to the downside than it has been in recent years," the World Bank said in its update.

Goldman Sachs Group rose 4.1 per cent after reporting that its fourth-quarter earnings tripled to $2.9-billion (U.S.).

JPMorgan Chase & Co. rose 1 per cent after reporting that its earnings rose 53 per cent.

Boeing Co. fell 3.4 per cent after two Japanese airlines grounded their fleets of 787 Dreamliners, following an emergency landing by one of the new planes. The new planes have been plagued by a number of mishaps in recent weeks.

Apple Inc. rebounded 4.2 per cent from a recent selloff that took the shares to an 11-month low.

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Among key commodities, crude oil rose to $94.24 (U.S.) a barrel, up 96 cents. Gold fell to $1,683.20 an ounce, down 70 cents.

Among Canadian commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. fell 0.3 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1 per cent.

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