No-news day leaves stocks mostly in a holding pattern

U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday after a quiet trading day that left the indexes little changed.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 45.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 13,124.62. It had been up 20 shortly after the opening bell. The Dow had its biggest loss in two weeks on Tuesday, falling 68.94 points.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed down 2.63 points, or 0.2 percent, at 1,402.89. The Nasdaq composite average closed up 1.17 at 3,075.32.

Hewlett-Packard led the Dow lower, sliding 2.2 percent after saying it would combine its printer and PC divisions to save money and improve efficiency. H-P is coping with declining sales of PCs and printer ink as smartphones, tablets and electronic document-sharing gain popularity.

Without strongly positive or negative news to move the market, stocks meandered sideways for most of the day. John Manley, chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, said the lack of market-moving events is generally good for stocks. Traders are increasingly confident that the risks hanging over the market from Europe, oil prices and China will blow over, he said.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.30 percent from 2.36 percent late Tuesday. Gold and crude oil prices rose slightly. 

Spill leads to charges against 17 oil company executives

SAO PAULO – Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges Wednesday against 17 Chevron and Transocean company executives for an oil leak in the Atlantic, a move deemed outrageous by those targeted but applauded by environmentalists.

Prosecutors accused the executives of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil’s oil regulator about safety plans and of not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill.

At least 110,000 gallons of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron Corp. appraisal well off the Rio de Janeiro coast in November. The well drilled by Transocean Ltd. has since been sealed, but a small amount of seepage reappeared in recent days, raising concern the damage is not yet over.

The federal prosecutors’ office in Rio de Janeiro said in an emailed statement that the two companies and 17 of its executives have been charged with “crimes against the environment.” Executives could face up to 31 years in prison. A judge will decide if the case will go to trial.

Safeway Inc. to stop selling beef mocked as ‘pink slime’

LOS ANGELES – Safeway Inc. is dropping the beef product derisively called “pink slime” from its fresh meat cases, the nation’s second-largest supermarket chain said Wednesday.

The company linked its decision to the recent negative publicity about the product. The action affects only fresh ground beef sold in Safeway stores, not foods prepared by other companies. Safeway stores operate under a variety of names – including Vons in California and Nevada, Randalls and Tom Thumb in Texas, and Genuardi’s in Philadelphia.

“While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome, recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef.”