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Shares of DirecTV were up after the company announced plans to repurchase $3.5 billion of its own stock.
Actavis shares were up after it said earnings doubled in the fourth quarter. The company announced plans earlier this week to buy Forest Laboratories for $25 billion. Forest shares were also higher.
After the market closed, Hewlett-Packard reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and issued an upbeat outlook. The stock was flat in extended trading.
Groupon and Priceline.com both reported results that topped analysts' expectations. Both shares soared initially after hours but later pulled back.
European markets ended mixed. Most Asian markets closed with losses.
HSBC's preliminary reading of Chinese manufacturing activity fell to a seven-month low in February. A survey of European purchasing managers also came in weaker than analysts were expecting.