NEW YORK — Stocks closed mixed Wednesday after the head of the Federal Reserve said unemployment may remain high for several years. The Dow Jones industrial average eked out its eighth straight day of gains.
Major indexes traded lower for much of the day after Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, told members of the House of Representatives that the economy is strengthening but that companies haven't yet stepped up hiring. Last week, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent in January.
Bond prices rose following Bernanke's testimony, reversing a slump that had pushed yields up to their highest levels since April. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite to its price, fell to 3.66 from 3.74 late Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.74 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,239.8. The Dow has had only one down day in the last 11, on Jan. 28 when the protests in Egypt escalated.
The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 3.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,320.88. It was the first down day for the index after four days of gains.
The Nasdaq composite lost 7.98, or 0.3 percent, to 2,789.07.
Two members of the Dow index reported better than expected earnings results. Coca-Cola Co. said its income more than tripled last quarter, helped by the acquisition of a bottler and selling more drinks in North America. The stock rose 0.4 percent.
Walt Disney Co. gained 5.3 percent after reporting strong earnings after the market closed Tuesday. The company beat expectations thanks to higher revenues at its ABC and ESPN networks.
Disney helped push consumer discretionary stocks in the S&P index up 0.6 percent, the largest gain of any of the 10 company groups that make up the index.
American International Group Inc. fell 3 percent after saying it expects to take a charge of $4.1 billion to build up reserves against losses for its Chartis property and casualty insurance units.
NYSE Euronext Inc., the parent company of the exchange, issued a statement confirming that it was in advanced talks with Germany's stock exchange, Deutsche Boerse, about a possible combination. The plan being discussed would create a company 60 percent owned by Deutsche Boerse shareholders with dual headquarters in Frankfurt and New York. NYSE Euronext's stock jumped 14 percent to $38.10.
Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 960 million shares.