The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down a fraction of a point at 1,387. Bank stocks and utilities fell the most, while industrial companies rose the most, but no category of stock moved more than 0.5 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 22 points to 12,811. Most of that was attributable to two of the most expensive stocks in the average, IBM and Boeing, each of which rose more than $1. High-dollar stocks in the Dow carry more weight.
The Nasdaq composite index was down two points at 2,914.
Deere, the maker of tractors and other farm and construction equipment, opened down 3 percent. It reported a quarterly profit of $1.75 per share, missing Wall Street expectations of $1.88.
Chipotle Mexican Group, the restaurant chain, climbed 2.4 percent. It announced late Tuesday that it would buy back an additional $100 million of its own stock. It had announced a $100 million buyback plan Oct. 18.
The quiet open Wednesday followed an uneventful finish Tuesday. The Dow dropped as much as 94 points after a warning from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about federal budget talks, then recovered to close down seven points.
The stock market will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and will close early Friday.
The price of oil climbed 77 cents to $87.52 per barrel. It fell $2.53 on Tuesday because of signs that Israel and Hamas were close to a cease-fire to end Israel's weeklong assault on the Gaza Strip, but a cease-fire remained elusive Wednesday.
In the bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 0.01 percentage point to 1.68 percent.
European markets were mostly higher. Stocks climbed 0.3 percent in France and 0.1 percent in Germany. Asian markets fared better. The Nikkei index in Japan climbed 0.9 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong 1.4 percent.