US STOCKS-Wall St dips on day after S&P 500 hits record high

Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:01pm EST

* Home Depot and Macy's rally after results

* Market seeks direction after rise to all-time high

* Consumer confidence falls more than expected in Feb

* Dow off 0.2 pct; S&P 500 off 0.1 pct; Nasdaq off 0.1 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Tuesday, easing back from record territory a day earlier as weak economic data offset gains in Home Depot and other retail shares.

Seven out of the 10 S&P 500 sector indexes ended lower, led by industrials while consumer discretionaries led on the upside.

Gains in U.S. home prices slowed in December, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, while the consumer confidence index fell more than expected in February.

Selling picked up slightly late in the session as traders unwound positions after the S&P 500 failed to break above Monday's intraday record high of 1,858.71, analysts said. The index remained in negative territory, down 0.2 percent, for the year.

"We tried to break out again and retest the highs, and since we failed, people are lightening up their positions they took earlier," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Home Depot shares jumped 4 percent to $80.98, giving the biggest boost to both the Dow and the S&P 500. Home Depot's earnings beat expectations, though sales fell more than expected in the fourth quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27.48 points or 0.17 percent, to end at 16,179.66. The S&P 500 slipped 2.49 points or 0.13 percent, to finish at 1,845.12. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.38 points or 0.13 percent, to close at 4,287.587.

Shares of Macy's Inc gained 6 percent to $56.25 after the department store operator reported a drop in January sales, but said fourth-quarter earnings rose from the previous year.

While many analysts have pinned the weakness to harsh winter weather rather than weakening fundamentals, the retail earnings suggest that spending has not dried up.

"There are a couple of credible pieces of information that didn't get caught in the snow drifts," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon. "Consumers are spending."

The S&P retail index rose 1.9 percent, while the consumer discretionary index gained 0.5 percent.

Investors are anxious to hear from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who will speak on Thursday to the Senate Banking Committee in her semiannual testimony about monetary policy. Her comments will be scoured for insight into how bad weather has affected economic activity, as well as for confirmation that the Fed will not change its schedule for trimming stimulus.

Among other corporate results, Tenet Healthcare Corp late Monday swung to a net loss in its fourth quarter. Tenet's adjusted earnings, however, were better than expected. Its stock slid 9.1 percent to close at $43.93.

Perry Ellis International Inc shares dropped 17.5 percent to $12.93 and hit their lowest level since late 2011, a day after the clothing company forecast a decline in quarterly revenue.

About 6.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

Decliners outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of 8 to 7. On the Nasdaq, nearly eight stocks fell for every five that rose.

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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