US STOCKS-Wall St turns higher as retail stocks rally

Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:05pm EST

* Home Depot and Macy's rally after results

* Markets seek direction after rise to all-time high

* Consumer confidence falls more than expected in Feb

* Indexes up: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 moving within points of record levels, as a pair of retail stocks rallied following strong results.

Major indexes had traded lower for much of the session, pressured by some disappointing data, but turned higher in midday trading.

The S&P climbed to record intraday levels on Monday, but the index pulled back in the afternoon and failed to close at a record. The benchmark index is currently 0.5 percent under its record.

"We're not being aggressive, since valuations aren't spectacular here, but this certainly isn't a time to run to cash," said Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust in Atlanta, Georgia. "We expect we'll take two steps forward and one step back for a while."

In the latest economic data, home prices rose slightly more than expected in December, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, but February consumer confidence fell more than expected, dropping to 78.1 from 80.7.

The confidence report was the latest in a string of economic data that came in below forecasts. While many analysts pin the weakness to harsh winter weather rather than weakening fundamentals, trading are looking for evidence the market's levels are justified.

"We're waiting to see how much of this weakness is on weather, since if the market gets spooked we could see a big pullback," said Macey, who helps oversee about $20 billion. "However, you look ahead to 2015, the market likes what it sees, so we would view any pullback as a buying opportunity."

Home Depot rose 2.3 percent to $79.65. The Dow component's earnings beat expectations, though sales fell more than expected in the fourth quarter. Macy's Inc gained 4.9 percent to $55.65 after the retailer reported a drop in January sales, though its fourth-quarter earnings rose from the prior year.

The S&P retail index rose 1.6 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.66 points, or 0.07 percent, at 16,218.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 1.44 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,849.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 7.31 points, or 0.17 percent, at 4,300.28.

Many traders are looking ahead to Thursday, when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will speak to the Senate Banking Committee in semi-annual testimony about monetary policy. Her comments will be scoured for insight into how bad weather has affected economic activity, as well as for confirmation the Fed will not change its schedule for trimming stimulus.

Tenet Healthcare Corp late Monday swung to a net loss in its fourth quarter, though adjusted earnings were better than expected. Shares fell 8.4 percent to $44.25.

Biocryst Pharmaceuticals Inc rose 12 percent to $13.03 after the Food and Drug Administration accepted the new drug application for its Peramivir product.

Sina Corp shares fell 8.9 percent to $69.29 a day after the company reported adjusted earnings that beat estimates by a penny, even as revenue jumped 43 percent.

Perry Ellis International Inc late Monday forecast a fall in quarterly revenue, sending shares down 17 percent to $13, their lowest level since late 2011.

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