U.S. stocks are ending mostly higher after recovering from an early plunge.
After several days surfing Wall Street's gut-wrenching swells and troughs, investors got a smoother ride on Thursday.
The stock market took an early plunge but recovered nearly all of the ground it lost as the day went on. By the closing bell most indexes were showing modest gains.
Despite the relatively calm day, many market pros say investors haven't seen the last of the market's big moves.
Traders are still fretting that global growth will slow and that Europe could slip into another recession, hurting corporate profits. Then there are the many geopolitical uncertainties, from conflicts in Syria and Iraq and uncertainty over the impact of the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
“The sailing has been much too smooth, so going forward, at the very least, (we're) back to normal turbulence,” said Erik Davidson, deputy chief investment officer of Wells Fargo Private Bank.
On Thursday, investors drew some encouragement from new data on the labor market and the latest batch of corporate earnings. Energy stocks surged as oil prices bounced back, notching only their fourth daily gain in a month.
“We had some positive economic data that reminded everybody that the economy is doing quite well,” said Randy Frederick, a managing director of trading and derivatives with the Schwab Center for Financial Research.
Another sign of easing anxiety: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose after plunging a day earlier.
The Dow Jones industrial average sank as much as 206 points in the first hour of trading, turned higher an hour later, then wavered in a small range the rest of the day. The moves echoed Wednesday's trading, when the Dow plunged as much as 460 points, then recovered much of that loss to close down 173.
On Thursday the Dow closed down 24.50 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,177.24.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.27 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,862.76. The Nasdaq composite gained 2.07 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,217.39.
The S&P 500 is up 0.8 percent for the year, while the Nasdaq is up 1 percent. Both had been down for 2014 a day earlier. The Dow remains down 2.8 percent for the year.
Small-company stocks also rebounded. The Russell 2000 index added 13.36, or 1.3 percent, to 1,085.81. The index is still down 6.7 percent for the year.
Investors cheered earnings from Delta Air Lines, which reported results early Thursday that beat analysts' forecasts. The stock, which has been pummeled this week amid worries about the impact that worries about the Ebola virus might have on bookings, rose 94 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $33.32.
Philip Morris International gained after reporting quarterly results that exceeded analysts' forecasts. Philip Morris' shares rose $1.68, or 2 percent, to $85.26.
Netflix plunged 19 percent after the company's subscriber growth fell short of its own forecasts following a rate increase. The stock slid $86.89 to $361.70.
Half of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by a 1.7 percent rise in energy stocks as the price of crude oil turned higher after a recent slump. Chesapeake Energy led the risers in the S&P 500, climbing $3.02, or 17 percent, to $20.79.
Remarks from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard also helped perk up stocks. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Bullard said that the Federal Reserve should consider putting off winding down its monthly bond purchases this month as planned.
Bullard is not a voting member of the central bank's policymaking committee, but as the head of a branch of the Fed investors still followed his remarks closely. The Fed's monthly bond purchases are currently $15 billion. The Fed's Sept. 17 policy statement said the purchases would end at the October meeting if the central bank's expectations for improvements in the labor market and inflation continued to be met.
Investors also assessed a mixed bag of U.S. economic data.
A key highlight: U.S. unemployment aid applications fell last week to the lowest level in 14 years, another sign that the job market is strengthening.
U.S. Treasury yields stabilized. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.15 percent from 2.14 percent late Wednesday.
The price of oil rebounded somewhat despite an Energy Department report showing a sharp increase in U.S. stockpiles. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 92 cents to close at $82.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Crude remains 4 percent lower for the week, however, on high global supplies and weak demand. It's also sharply below its June peak of $107.26 a barrel.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 69 cents to close at $84.47 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline rose 6.2 cents to close at $2.211 a gallon, heating oil rose 1.1 cents to close at $2.470 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.4 cent to close at $3.796 per 1,000 cubic feet.