US STOCKS-Wall St little changed on growth concerns

Mon Mar 4, 2013 12:05pm EST

* Concerns about China's economy, Italy's political stalemate

* Investors take breather with stocks at high levels

* Retail stocks, including Target, Macy's rise

* Dow down 0.1 pct, S&P flat; Nasdaq flat

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street was little changed on Monday as investors took worries about global growth and the euro zone debt crisis as opportunities to take a breather from equities that have risen near record highs.

Stocks faced technical resistance as they climbed in recent weeks without a significant or prolonged pullback. The S&P and Dow are up more than 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively, for the year so far.

"We are hitting a bit of technical resistance here, but the momentum is still there and the market is still seen undervalued. It could be anything that pushes the market above this level soon," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC.

Trading was volatile with the indexes starting the session lower, then fluctuating between positive and negative. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 12.67 points, or 0.09 percent, at 14,076.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.28 point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,518.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.18 points, or 0.04 percent, at 3,170.92.

The Dow is less than 1 percent away from hitting its life-time closing high, while the S&P is 3 percent below its record close.

Retail stocks were among the strongest, with Target Corp up 2.8 percent to $65.95, Macy's Inc gaining 2.2 percent to $41.56 and Best Buy Co Inc rising 2.1 percent to $17.52.

Plans to tighten curbs on the housing market in China and a slowdown in growth of that country's services sector prompted worries about growth in the world's second largest economy.

China's services industries expanded at the slowest pace in five months in February.

Also weighing on the market was the possibility of another Italian election, causing more uncertainty about the euro zone's debt crisis.

The $85 billion in across-the-board U.S. spending cuts began taking effect over the weekend. Signs the cuts are beginning to take a toll on the economy could jostle markets.

Providing some support for the market, Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve's influential vice chairwoman, said the central bank's aggressive monetary stimulus is warranted given how far below its full potential the economy is operating.

Hess Corp rose 3.8 percent to $69.04 after it said it will exit its retail, energy marketing, and energy trading businesses.