The Dow and S&P500 were little changed on Thursday as hopes of European Central Bank action to tackle the bloc's crisis grew stale, while Cisco Systems led the Nasdaq higher after bullish research on its stock.
Chinese economic data kept alive talk that central banks will intervene to support the global economy as annual growth in factory output slowed to its weakest in more than three years in July while annual consumer price inflation hit a 30-month low.
The S&P 500, up for five weeks and also near four-year highs, has risen as investors bet central banks, including the Federal Reserve, will soon act in support of a stalling global economic recovery.
"The Europeans indicated their strong support but have yet to take any actual action, the Fed has indicated strong support but is yet to take any action, leaving professional investors fearful of shorting the market," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.
"There's individual stock stories that will continue to impact industries, but absent that there really isn't much to move this."
Cisco Systems Inc shares rose 2.9 percent to $17.65 after Goldman Sachs added the network equipment maker's stock to its conviction buy list and Piper Jaffray raised its Cisco rating to "overweight."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.59 points, or 0.04 percent, to 13,181.23. The S&P 500 Index added 0.72 point, or 0.05 percent, to 1,402.94. The Nasdaq Composite gained 5.91 points, or 0.20 percent, to 3,017.16.
The S&P could close at its highest since early May and Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 was at a four-month high.
Beauty products maker Elizabeth Arden forecast 2013 profit above estimates on stronger sales and its shares jumped 19.8 percent to $46.69.
Nestle , the world's biggest food group, said first-half results beat expectations and it expects pressure from the high prices of basic foodstuffs to ease in the second half of the year. Its shares, traded in Switzerland, rose 3 percent.
Shares of Robbins & Myers jumped 26.9 percent to $59.40 after National Oilwell Varco said it will buy Robbins & Myers for $2.54 billion in cash.