A strong profit report from Procter & Gamble helped indexes start higher early Thursday, but they weakened in late morning trading after a realtor group said that the pace of contracts for new home sales had leveled off.
That turned the stocks of builders sharply lower. PulteGroup was off 3 percent, giving up an early gain. D.R. Horton fell 2 percent and Toll Brothers fell 3 percent.
In afternoon trading Thursday the Dow Jones industrial average was up five points at 13,082. It had climbed as much as 87 points earlier in the day.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose three points to 1,412 and the Nasdaq gained six points to 2,987.
“This is a market still working through a difficult earnings season,” said Jason Pride, the director of investment strategy for Glenmede, a wealth-management firm.
Pride said investors probably celebrated too much after the Federal Reserve pledged more support for the economy in early September. They overlooked shrinking economies in Europe, slower growth in China and other signs that this earnings season would be rough.