US STOCKS-Wall St treads water over profits, J.C. Penney nosedives

Tue Apr 9, 2013 12:24pm EDT

* U.S. earnings growth scaled back, keeps traders on sideline

* Department store J.C. Penney tumbles after CEO shake-up

* Alcoa begins earnings season with revenue miss, shares slip

* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P, Nasdaq flat

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were flat on Tuesday as cautious investors waited to see if earnings would keep the market rally alive, while the choice of chief executive at J.C. Penney sent the retail chain plunging.

Penney was the largest percentage loser on the S&P 500 as its shares slid more than 11 percent to $14.08 after the department store's board ousted Chief Executive Ron Johnson and replaced him with his predecessor.

Though Penney's board may not face serious legal challenges, shareholders may question whether the move to replace Johnson with Myron Ullman, who Johnson himself replaced in late 2011, is good for them.

Major indexes swung between gains and losses as forecasts for U.S. first-quarter earnings have been scaled back. Profits are seen rising just 1.5 percent from a year ago quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data. In January, earnings were forecast as rising 4.3 percent.

Recent data have shown the economy is growing but at a slow pace. The March payrolls report showed jobs creation was less than half of what economists expected.

But analysts said the market had the momentum to push indexes higher, even with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up about 12 percent and the S&P 500 up about 10 percent for the year.

"The economy is still moving in the right direction, just less speedily than we want to see," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

Alcoa Inc, the first Dow component to release results, reported a higher quarterly profit but lower-than-expected revenue after the bell on Monday. Shares of the largest U.S. aluminum producer slipped 0.4 percent to $8.36.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.85 points, or 0.08 percent, at 14,625.33. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.42 point, or 0.03 percent, at 1,563.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.56 point, or 0.02 percent, at 3,221.70.

Shares of nutritional company Herbalife fell 1.3 percent to $37.85 after the company announced KPMG had resigned as Herbalife's independent accountant after one of its senior partners engaged in insider trading in Herbalife stock.

Earlier, the stock was halted from trading after the New York Times reported KPMG would resign.

Companies, including Microsoft and Nokia , have stepped up requests to European antitrust regulators to take action against Google, accusing it of blocking competition in mobile telephony.

Microsoft shares were the Dow's top percentage gainer, up 2.1 percent at $29.19. U.S.-listed shares of Nokia Corp rose 1.2 percent to $3.33.

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