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NEW YORK — Stocks closed mostly higher in choppy trading Thursday as investors continued to assess corporate earnings and tensions in Ukraine were in focus again.

A big beat in quarterly profits from tech bellwether Apple helped boost tech stocks but other earnings results were mixed and stock gains were muted.

The Dow Jones industrial average was unchanged at 16,501.65 after falling as low as 16,452 and reaching as high as 16,541. The Dow was helped by an earnings beat by Caterpillar but 3M and Verizon results disappointed investors.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 3.22, or 0.2% to 1,878.61 and the Nasdaq composite index added 21.37, or 0.5%, to 4,148.34.

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The listless market comes despite a 8.2% lift to $567.77 for Apple shares after it trounced quarterly profit and sales estimates. Facebook, however, saw its shares fall 0.8% to $60.87 despite a solid profit beat last night by the social media darling.

Caterpillar rose 1.8% to $105.28 but 3M dropped 1% to $136.65 and Verizon sank 2.4% to $46.28.

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FIRST TAKE: Apple, Facebook draw line under tech stocks

Investors are looking head to the next round of corporate earnings reports, including updates from Microsoft and Visa.

Quarterly results so far have come in solid but not spectacular.

Of the nearly 200 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69% have "beat" expectations, albeit lowered ones, which is better than the long-term average of 63%, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. But year-over-year growth is now tracking at 2.9%, far more sluggish than the 6.5% growth projected by Wall Street analysts on Jan. 1.

"Overall, we believe the first-quarter results will come in flattish," Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, told clients.

But sales continue to lag. Only 55% of the companies that have reported revenues above of expectations, below the long-term average of 61%.

On Wednesday, Apple reported quarterly sales of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, beating analysts' projections of $43.5 billion in revenue. The company also upped its stock-buyback program, splitting the stock 7 for 1. Facebook topped earnings-per-share forecasts by 10 cents on strong digital advertising sales.

Investors were also digesting economic data. The Commerce Department reported that durable goods for March rose 2.6% in March, topping forecasts.

Financial markets around the globe are also dealing with renewed geopolitical risk, as tensions between Ukraine and Russia heated up after a clash in Eastern Ukraine that reportedly left five pro-Russian militants dead.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury note was 2.69%, down slightly from 2.70% Wednesday. Gold rose $7, or 0.5%, to $1.291.70.

The Nikkei fell 1% in Tokyo to close at 14,404.99 as President Obama held meetings on trade and security with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Obama and Abe had little to say on a wide-reaching trans-Pacific trade agreement in a joint news conference, and focused more on reassuring bilateral security ties.

European markets were higher. Britain's FTSE 100 index rose 0.4% to 6,703.00 and Germany's DAX gained 0.1% to 9,548.68.

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