Stocks stall with stocks at lofty levels

Stocks stalled on Wednesday, a day after the Dow and the S&P 500 closed above important technical levels and at their highest in about 2-1/2 years.

Investors were reluctant to make big bets even though a report showed U.S. private employers added more jobs than expected in January.

Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago, said a generally positive earnings season was keeping stocks at lofty levels.

“Maybe we’ll focus on some of the problems that are out there once the earnings are out of the way,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a pullback.”

The Dow closed on Tuesday comfortably above the milestone 12,000 level for the first time since June 2008, and the S&P closed above the 1,300 level for the first time since August 2008.

Investors kept an eye on protests in Egypt as street clashes erupted. Concerns that protests could spread to other countries in the region have pressured equities in recent sessions.

The Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT.P), which consists of shares of companies in Egypt, fell 0.6 percent after rising for two consecutive days.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) gained 7.76 points, or 0.06 percent, to 12,047.92. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX) dropped 2.33 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,305.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) rose 2.03 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,753.22.