Stocks close out flat on mixed earnings reports

Stocks ended more or less where they started as several companies reported earnings that disappointed investors.

Avon plunged 10 percent after its earnings fell far short of what the market was looking for. Exxon Mobilwas down $1 to $101.41 after the energy giant's quarterly profits fell 4 percent. Clorox and MetLife also ended down about 1.5 percent each.

MasterCard and Yelp were among the firms that gained after reporting earnings.Dish Network climbed 6 percent after it was reported AT&T had approached it about a deal.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 21.97 to close at 16,558. The S&P 500 fell 0.3 to 1,883.68. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.90 to 4,127.45..

Benefits requests from unemployed up in Feb.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February, a dose of mixed news for an economy that is supposed to be gaining momentum.

The Labor Department says a seasonally adjusted 344,000 people applied for jobless aid, up 14,000 from the previous week and the most since late February. Economists had expected a drop.

Snapchat adds chat as message site heats up

Snapchat is adding a chat feature to its ephemeral messaging service. Despite its name, the Snapchat app has never offered real-time conversation -until now. Previously, users were only able to send each other photos and videos that self-destruct a few seconds after being viewed.

The startup said Thursday that users will be able to chat by swiping right on a friend's name. When users leave the chat screen, messages will be automatically deleted. Users can take screenshots of the chat if they want to preserve it.

Kellogg expects cereal sales to remain soggy

Kellogg's cereal sales are falling, and the company expects the trend to persist even as it launches a major ad campaign touting the nutritional benefits of cereal.

The maker of Frosted Flakes, Special K and Mini-Wheats said Thursday sales for its U.S. breakfast division fell 5.5 percent in the first quarter, as gains in Pop-Tarts were dragged down by declines in cereal.

Yellen says Fed seeks to avoid undue regs

As the Federal Reserve works to ensure that the nation's largest banks pose no undue threats to the financial system, it will avoid imposing unnecessary rules on small banks, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday.

Yellen said the Fed will consider any harmful effects that new regulations would have on smaller institutions.

Viacom 2Q profit rise helped by TV networks

NEW YORK - Viacom said Thursday that its second-quarter profit rose 4 percent, boosted by strong results at its TV networks that offset a decline at its moviemaking business.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said ratings rose on at many of the company's networks including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and TV Land.

Dauman also addressed the upcoming departure of Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, saying the network "looks forward to sending him off in style these next eight months." Colbert, who was raised in Charleston, will take over for David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" next year.

Bank sets a $100B goal for loans to small firms

Wells Fargo has set a goal of at least $100 billion in new loans to small businesses over the next five years.

The bank, which announced the goal Thursday, plans a marketing and education program to make small businesses aware of its services. Wells Fargo one of is the largest bank serving the Charleston region.

Average mortgage rate slips for week to 4.29%

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined slightly this week as the spring homebuying season has gotten off to a slow start.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan eased to 4.29 percent from 4.33 percent. The average for the 15-year mortgage ticked down to 3.38 percent from 3.39 percent.

Wire reports