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U.S. stocks turn mixed, erasing early losses

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were mixed in midday trading, closing out a tumultuous week in which the Dow Jones industrial average had its biggest plunge in a month.

The Dow was down 3 points at 13,071 at midday Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up less than a point at 1,399. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points to 3,078.

All three indexes were down earlier, following big drops the day before. Most of the losses were gone by late morning.

The Dow is still down 1.1 percent for the week, and is close to having its worst week of the year. It dropped nearly 125 points Wednesday, its worst decline in a month, after the Federal Reserve signaled that it didn't plan any more steps to push interest rates lower.

Stock trading will be closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.

Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported that the number of people seeking jobless benefits fell to a four week low. Also, a closely watched report on retailers showed that sales at stores open at least a year had climbed a better-than-expected 4.1 percent last month.

Seven of ten sectors in the S&P 500 index are down. Telecommunications companies fell the most, down 1.7 percent. Consumer discretionary companies were up the most, gaining 0.77 percent

Spain has become the latest point of concern in Europe's debt crisis. Investors are concerned over the ability of the country's government to push through cost-cutting programs at a time when its economy is heading for another recession.

Yields on 10-year Spanish bonds rose 0.08 percentage point to 5.74 percent, a sign that investors are less confident in the country's finances.

In U.S. stocks, Constellation Brands, a New York-based wine and spirits company, plunged 13 percent, the most in the S&P 500. The company's forecast for 2013 earnings was well below what analysts were expecting.

Bed Bath & Beyond jumped 9 percent, the most in the S&P 500, after the retailer reported a 25 percent surge in fourth-quarter profit, far more than analysts were forecasting. Sales at stores open for at least a year jumped 6.8 percent, well above Wall Street's estimate of 3.8 percent.