Friday's moves also appear to be held in check as investors turn some of their attention to a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20. The group is meeting as tensions grow over a brewing currency battle that could affect global trade.
Traders received another batch of earnings that beat analysts' forecasts, led by Dow Jones components Verizon Communications Inc. and American Express Co. But results weren't enough to drive shares sharply higher. The Dow fell about 30 points in midday trading, but broader indexes were mixed and rising stocks outpaced those that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
The modest movements Friday could simply be that investors are "a little bit tired," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management. "The fundamentals would indicate we should be higher."
Stocks have been on a steady climb for nearly two months. A pause, particularly following strong earnings the past few days, "is absolutely natural and maybe even expected," Zemsky said.
Verizon shares dipped after it added its fewest number of overall subscribers in a decade and its profit fell. Regional bank KeyCorp couldn't hold onto early morning gains after it reported strong earnings growth as fewer customers defaulted on loans.
Manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. reported a profit that beat estimates, but it raised its earnings outlook to a level that still fell short of expectations. Its shares wavered throughout the day.
Amazon.com Inc. and oil services company Schlumberger Ltd. were among the better performers following earnings reports. Online retailer Amazon shook off some early morning concerns about narrowing margins to climb higher. Schlumberger got a big lift from increased land-based drilling activities in the U.S. and Canada.
The Dow fell 31.38, or 0.3 percent, to 11,115.19 in midday trading.
A loss would snap a two-day winning streak for the Dow that has been built on upbeat earnings and corporate outlooks. It ended Thursday at its highest closing level since May 3 and was on the brink of closing at its highest level in more than two years before shares pared their gains in afternoon trading.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.12, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,180.14, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 10.67, or 0.4 percent, to 2,470.34.
The G-20 meeting is adding some caution to the market, which has been volatile throughout the week. Shares dropped early in the week because of global economic concerns before recovering in recent days following the string of earnings reports.
Finance ministers and central bank governors are meeting to discuss a growing trend of countries trying to devalue their currency to gain an advantage in the international marketplace.
"Everyone is trying to get out of the economic doldrums by exporting," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank. "And everyone is trying to do it at one time."
There are worries that some countries, like China, are holding their currencies at artificially low levels. That gives them an advantage in exporting goods as the global economy slowly recovers from a deep recession.
The dollar rose slightly against other major currencies, but still remains near a 15-year low against Japan's yen. It's also near its lowest level of the year against the euro.
Since the end of August, the ICE Futures US dollar index, which measures the dollar against six other currencies, has dropped nearly 7 percent.
Verizon shares fell 63 cents to $31.89, while American Express dropped 76 cents to $39.51. Honeywell rose 11 cents to $46.78. Amazon rose $2.91 to $167.88.
Schlumberger jumped $3.13, or 4.9 percent, to $67.44. KeyCorp fell 9 cents to $8.25.