NEW YORK - U.S. stocks flipped between minor gains and losses in early trading Friday. After taking a hard hit in the middle of the week, major indexes are on track to end it with a slight loss.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down one point to 1,869 as of 11:01 a.m. ET. The Dow Jones industrial average was down seven points to 16,439 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 15 points to 4,054.
Before the market opened, the Commerce Department said builders started work on more houses in April, as construction surged to its highest pace in six months. But almost all of that increase came from new apartment buildings, a sign that Americans are still struggling to buy single-family houses.
Verizon Communications climbed $1.07, or 2 percent, to $49.05 in early trading after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway revealed a new investment in the company in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Thursday. Other big-name investors, including John Paulson, also reportedly took stakes in the telecom.
J.C. Penney stock jumped $1.36, or 16 percent, to $9.72. Rising sales helped the department store chain turn in better results than analysts expected late Thursday. Sales at stores open at least a year - a key gauge of a chain's health - increased more than 6 percent in its first quarter.
France's CAC 40 was unchanged, while Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock sank 1.4 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent, while on the mainland, the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1 percent.
U.S. government bonds barely moved in early trading. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was 2.51 percent, up from 2.49 percent late Thursday. Gold fell $2.50 to $1,291.10 an ounce. Crude oil rose 16 cents to $101.66 a barrel.