By Kate Gibson and Laura Mandaro, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks were mixed Wednesday with energy shares hit by Baker Hughes Inc.'s weak forecast and Netflix Inc. helping lift the consumer sector on its plan to begin streaming original content next year.
"For the last week, the market has been trading in a sideways type of pattern in attempting to work off some of the overbought condition we've got off the last three weeks or so," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago.
"I think we've just gone up too quickly. Yes the economy is improving, but I don't know if it's improving that fast," said Nolte of Wall Street's rapid climb, which has the S&P 500 Index (SPX) up roughly 12% for the year so far.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 17.11 points, or 0.1%, to 13,153.08.
The S&P 500 Index rose nearly 1 point to 1,406.24, with energy weighing the most and among its 10 sectors.
Netflix (NFLX) shares rose 4.5% after the video-by-mail provider said it would run a horror series next year starring Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard as it experiments with original programming.
Baker Hughes (BHI) shares slid 5.8%, leading S&P 500 decliners, after the company's first-quarter projections disappointed.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) again outperformed, extending a trend that's lifted the index nearly 19% this year. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq was up 10.39 points, or 0.3%, to 3,084.24.
Gains were supported by Apple (AAPL), up 0.1% at $606.41, and Google Inc. (GOOG) , the third-biggest Nasdaq Component. Heavyweight Oracle Corp. (ORCL) reversed gains, lately off 2.4%, after the business-software company projected earnings at the high end of estimates.
Technology has led the gains in Wall Street's mostly steady rise in 2012.
"Call it the Apple effect," said Nolte of the technology giant, which accounts for more than 4% of the S&P 500 and 12% of the Nasdaq Composite.
In addition to Apple Inc., its shares up 50% so far this year, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) started "to do well over the last few months" and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) "continues to do well," said Nolte.
"That is really what has been leading the overall market higher," said Nolte of the three technology companies, which in addition to Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), represent the four biggest weights on the S&P 500.
Advancers ran just ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where 481 million shares traded as of 3:35 p.m. Eastern.
Wall Street offered virtually no reaction to the National Association of Realtors' report that home sales fell 0.9% in February to 4.59 million versus an upwardly revised 4.6 million in January. The NAR said the January and February levels were the best in five years.
"I think investors yawned through that one," said Nolte said of the economic report.
Economic reports in the days ahead include a housing-price index on Thursday and data on single-family homes on Friday.
The reports will offer further "indications of the health of the housing market, which is recovering, but is still at very, very low levels," said Nolte, who believes further evidence is needed before a bottom can be called.