The Dow Jones industrial average fell four points to 13,160. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose a fraction of a point to 1,406. The Nasdaq composite index climbed five to 3,306.
The Commerce Department reported that construction of single-family homes and apartments dipped 1.1 percent in July compared with June. But the number of building permits jumped to 812,000, the most since August 2008.
Facebook sank $1.30, more than 6 percent, to $19.90 on the first day that its early investors and a handful of founders were free to sell their stock. In all, 271 million shares can be sold, according to Facebook's regulatory filings.
Cisco Systems led stocks in the Dow, rising $1.29, or 7.4 percent, to $18.64. The world's largest maker of computer networking equipment reported earnings late Wednesday that beat expectations.
Among other stocks making big moves:
— Agilent Technologies slid $3.27, or 8.1 percent to $37.21, the worst drop in the S&P 500. Agilent said a slump in global demand for its high-tech measuring products helped tug net income down 26 percent.
— PetSmart Inc. rose $2.86, or 4.2 percent, to $70.30. The pet products store posted better earnings than analysts' forecasts. PetSmart's quarterly net income rose 28 percent, and it raised its annual profit expectation for the second time this year.