US STOCKS-Wall St drifts near record, Home Depot buoys Dow

Tue May 21, 2013 10:48am EDT

* Home Depot raises outlook, shares jump

* Goldman Sachs sees S&P 500 at 1,750 by year-end

* JPMorgan shares hit highest since February 2001

* Dow flat, S&P off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, May 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed in early trading on Tuesday with Home Depot at a record high and buoying the blue-chips while investors eyed congressional testimony from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday.

The housing market recovery helped Home Depot report higher quarterly sales and earnings, prompting the world's largest home improvement chain to boost its sales outlook for the year. Its shares rose 2.3 percent to $78.53 after hitting a record of $79.40.

Housing will continue to be a tailwind for stocks and an engine for economic growth in the foreseeable future according to Jack De Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The U.S. economic calendar is thin and the market will continue to be vulnerable with the S&P and Dow industrials near record highs. However, the expectation of continuing accommodative monetary policy from the Federal Reserve should continue to lend support to equities.

"There's not strong enough evidence one way or another to change monetary policy," De Gan said, adding that with all the support the Fed has given to equities there are also "fundamental reasons" driving the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.27 points or 0.05 percent, to 15,328.01, the S&P 500 lost 3.27 points or 0.2 percent, to 1,663.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 8.6 points or 0.25 percent, to 3,487.84.

The small- and mid-cap Russell 2000 continued to face technical resistance at the 1,000 point level but was within two pints of its all time closing high.

Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients dated May 20 that it sees the S&P 500 at 1,750 by the end of the year, a 5 percent advance from Monday's close, and expects a 12-month rally to 1,825. The bank's economists forecast above-trend U.S. gross domestic product growth in 2014, for the first time in six years.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co rose 1 percent to $52.86 as a proposal to strip chief executive Jamie Dimon of his chairman title appeared to be defeated according to a preliminary tally reported by The New York Times.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook is expected to testify before Congress later on Tuesday after a U.S. Senate report on the company's offshore tax structure said the iPhone maker has kept billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries to pay little or no taxes to any government. Apple shares fell 1.7 percent to $435.44.

Medical device maker Medtronic Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit driven by strong international sales and its shares rose 6.3 percent to $53.05 after hitting $53.83, its highest since September 2008.

Carnival Corporation & Plc slashed its full-year earnings outlook for the second time in less than three months as it expects lower revenue due to the lower ticket pricing it is employing to attract passengers following a string of high-profile mishaps. Its U.S. shares dropped 6.2 percent to $31.13.

Best Buy shares fell 3.9 percent to $25.77 after the world's largest consumer electronics chain reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and warned that investments to win back shoppers could squeeze profits in the near term.

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