Japan's two biggest airlines grounded all their Boeing 787s for safety checks Wednesday after one was forced to make an emergency landing. The plane, known as the Dreamliner, has been plagued by a series of problems this year, including a battery fire and fuel leaks.
Boeing's stock sank $2.74 to $74.20, a loss of 4 per cent. The Dow was down 30 points at 13,504 as of 1:32 EST on Wednesday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell less than one point to 1,472, while the Nasdaq composite climbed five points to 3,116.
Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, the country's largest bank, rose after both posted quarterly results that trounced analysts' estimates.
Harry Clark, chairman of Clark Capital Management Group in Philadelphia, described JPMorgan's numbers as staggering. The bank's earnings jumped 55 per cent over the prior year.
"Their earnings are just ridiculously good," Mr Clark said. "It shows you that these giants can make money in any type of environment."
Slightly smaller financial firms, such as Northern Trust and Bank of New York Mellon, reported weaker earnings and their stocks sank.
JPMorgan Chase edged up 23 cents to $46.58. The bank's stunning results were offset by an internal review of a $6 billion trading loss on credit derivatives. JPMorgan's board of directors criticized executives for failing to keep the board informed of potential problems and using unapproved models for measuring trading risks.
Goldman Sachs gained $5.06 to $140.65, a 4 per cent jump. The investment bank's profits nearly tripled in the fourth quarter of last year. Goldman's bond underwriting business had its best year since the financial crisis, thanks to strong demand for fixed-income investments and companies lining up to borrow at historically cheap rates.
Analysts forecast that companies in the S&P 500 will report a 3.2 per cent increase in fourth-quarter earnings. Financial firms and consumer-discretionary companies are expected to post the biggest growth, according to S&P Capital IQ.
The Labor Department said consumer prices were flat last month as gas prices sank. The December reading of the consumer price index capped a year of tame inflation. Consumer prices increased just 1.7 per cent in 2012, down from 3 per cent in 2011.
The report on consumer prices led traders to push up prices for Treasurys, knocking yields down. The 10-year Treasury note's yield slipped to 1.82 per cent. The yield, used to set mortgages and a wide variety of other loans, ended Tuesday at 1.84 per cent.
Among other companies making news
Wendy's rose 2 per cent, or 11 cents, to $5.01. The hamburger chain, known for its Frosty shakes and square burgers, earnings topped Wall Street's estimates, even as a key indicator of sales at North American restaurants dipped slightly.
Genworth Financial jumped 10 per cent, the largest gain in the S&P 500. The financial services company laid out a plan to reorganize its business, including putting its mortgage unit under a new company. Genworth's stock gained 83 cents to $8.96.