Stocks barely budged, letting investors hold on to their gains from a strong opening to the year a day earlier.

Specialty stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond rose after a report that mall shopping was strong in the days after Christmas. Banks, health care companies and utilities fell slightly.

On Wednesday the Dow rose 21 points to close at 12,418. The Dow opened the year with a 180-point gain Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq were nearly flat. The S&P rose two-tenths of a point to close at 1,277. The Nasdaq fell four-tenths of a point to close at 2,648.

Rising and falling stocks were about even on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was below average at 3.5 billion shares.