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Blue chips stocks on Wall Street failed to close above the 13,000 hurdle despite two firm readings on the domestic economy.
It's the fifth time in the past week the Dow Jones Industrial Index has fallen short of a mark not reached since mid-2008.
But stocks traded above the benchmark for most of the session as investors reacted to positive economic news.
The number of home buyers increased last month to the highest level in 21 months, while a reading on February's manufacturing activity in the Dallas area rose at a faster rate this month.
At the close (10am NZ time), the Dow was down just 1.44 points at 12,981.51.
By contrast, the S&P 500 index was up 0.1% to 1367.60. The Nasdaq Composite also rose 0.1% to 2966.16.
Consumer discretionary and financial stocks were the S&P 500's best performing sectors, while utility and energy stocks lost the most ground.
Among blue chips, Walt Disney rose 1.2%, after analysts at Goldman Sachs called it one of their favourite stocks, up from a neutral rating. Intel added 1.5%.
European markets were broadly lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.3% to close at 263.86. after finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 advanced and developing economies deferred key decisions on international aid for Europe.
The UK's FTSE 100 index ended down 0.3% at 5915.55, Germany's DAX fell 0.2% to 6849.60 and France's CAC-40 index ended 0.7% lower at 3441.45.
Most Asian markets fell on the G20 comments. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average eased 0.1% to 9633.93 but China's Shanghai Composite added 0.3% to 2447.06 to post its seventh consecutive gain.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.9% to 21217.86, Korea's Kospi lost 1.4% to 1991.16 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.9% to 4267.4.
Commodities: Oil, gold down
Oil futures pulled back, snapping a string of seven straight advances. Light, sweet crude for April delivery settled down $US1.21, or 1.1%, at $US108.56 a barrel in New York.
Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange were down $US1.49, or 1.2%, at $US123.98 a barrel.
Gold futures ended slightly lower as profit-taking took over following steep gains in the previous week.
Gold for April delivery declined $US1.50, or 0.1%, to end the day at $US1774.90 an ounce in New York.
Currencies: Yen rebounds
The yen strengthened against the US dollar, bouncing back from an eight-month low.
The yen has dropped 5% since the Bank of Japan boosted the size of its asset-purchase programme on February 14.
The currency hit ¥81.66 to the dollar early in the session, its lowest point since May. The dollar was recently at ¥80.49 from ¥81.20 late on Friday.
The euro was at $US1.3401 from $US1.3449 late on Friday. The euro was at ¥107.90 compared with ¥106.94.
The UK pound traded at $US1.5822 from $US1.5878, and the dollar bought 0.8991 Swiss franc from 0.8961 franc.