NEW YORK (AP) — Renewed worries about Europe overshadowed an encouraging U.S. jobs report, and stocks flipped between slight gains and losses on Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell eight points to 13,974, shortly after 2:30 p.m. E.S.T.
Gloomy news out of Europe weighed on stocks. Germany's economy shrank late last year, deepening a recession across the region. That's a troubling sign for the U.S. because sales to Europe have been a boon for American companies.
After a strong start in January, the U.S. stock market has drifted sideways over the previous week with few major events swaying investors. That calm could disappear soon, said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management. He's bracing for some turbulence with recessions in Europe and Japan, and weak growth in the U.S.
"Everybody is too complacent," Cote said.
Cisco Systems tugged the Dow down, falling 1 percent. The world's largest maker of computer networking equipment reported earnings late Wednesday that surpassed Wall Street's expectations. But it predicted sales growth that was weaker than previous estimates. Cisco's stock lost 28 cents to $20.86.
The broader S&P 500 index edged up one point to 1,522. The Nasdaq composite index rose one point to 3,198.
The S&P 500 index has increased 1.6 percent this month and has already gained 6.7 percent for the year.
The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell to 341,000 last week, the lowest level in three weeks, according to the Labor Department. It's a signal that unemployment could head lower.
In a handful of deals announced Thursday, American Airlines and U.S. Airways agreed to merge in an $11 billion deal, creating the world's largest airline. Warren Buffett and 3G Capital, a private-equity firm, plan to buy the ketchup maker H.J. Heinz for $23 billion.
US Airways Group's stock sank 9 percent to $13.29. H.J. Heinz soared 20 percent to $72.41.
Constellation Brands soared 37 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, after it reached a deal with Anheuser-Busch InBev. InBev agreed to sell a brewery in Mexico and rights for Corona and Modelo beer in the U.S. to Constellation Brands for $2.9 billion. Constellation Brands gained $11.81 to $43.69.
In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to an even 2 percent Thursday, down from 2.02 percent the day before.
The 10-year yield, used to set a variety of borrowing rates, began the year around 1.70 percent. It has climbed steadily higher as worries about a recession ease and traders shift money out of the Treasury market. When traders sell bonds, yields rise.
Among other companies making news:
— Whole Foods Market's slumped 10 percent. The grocery store chain trimmed its forecasts for sales and earnings this year, a result of its plans to open more stores and put more lower-priced goods on its shelves. Whole Foods lost $9.38 to $87.52.
— General Motors fell 3 percent, after the biggest U.S. carmaker said it made money in North America and Asia and nearly doubled last year's fourth-quarter profit. But its earnings fell short of analysts' estimates. GM's stock dropped 75 cents to $27.92.