After two positive sessions, stocks were mixed on Thursday due to uneasiness about the upcoming Iraqi election, disappointing earnings from Caterpillar Inc. and word of SBC Communications' potential bid for AT & T.;

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 31.19 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 10,467.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up 0.48 of a point, to close at 1,174.55. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.06 point, or 0.1 percent, to finish at 2,047.15.

Caterpillar Inc. reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings as higher raw material prices and retirement benefits hurt profit, sending its shares down nearly 5 percent.

And SBC Communications Inc. is reportedly in talks to acquire AT & T; Corp. for at least $15 billion to gain more business clients, according to stories published in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The merger talks were described as sensitive with a potential for collapse.

Among local movers, shares of Ameron International Corp. jumped 5.4 percent to $35.16 after it reported earnings for the fiscal year ended Nov. 30 of $13.5 million, compared with $29.9 million for the prior year. The Pasadena-based firm also said it expected solid earnings in 2005. Fourth-quarter earnings will be released in mid-February.

And Cheesecake Factory Inc. rose 2.4 percent to close at $32.14 after its stock was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

On the down side, Maguire Properties Inc. dropped 2.4 percent to $23.94 after a story appeared in the Los Angeles Times claiming the L.A.-based real estate company was close to a $1.5 billion deal to purchase 13 properties in the western U.S. from CommonWealth Partners.

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