US STOCKS-Wall St flat as Caterpillar offsets Facebook

Thu Jul 24, 2014 2:49pm EDT

* Jobless claims lowest since 2006; home sales tumble

* Caterpillar weighs on Dow, Facebook hits record on results

* Ford beats expectations; recalls hurt GM

* Dow off 0.03 pct; S&P 500 up 0.03 pct; Nasdaq off 0.04 pct (Updates to afternoon trading)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, July 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks barely budged on Thursday as corporate earnings painted a mixed picture of the economy, though the S&P 500 eked out a record intraday high for the third straight session.

The latest economic data also failed to entice buyers. While jobless claims dropped to the lowest since mid-February 2006, new home sales fell 8.1 percent in June, the biggest decline in almost a year. The PHLX housing sector index slid 2.7 percent in its biggest one-day drop since February.

The U.S. stock market's recent gains have been driven mostly by earnings, which have been strong this quarter. With 41 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported results so far, 68 percent have posted earnings that topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the long-term average of 63 percent. On the revenue side, 62.1 percent have beaten analysts' forecasts, compared with the historical average of 61 percent.

Facebook Inc shares jumped 6.5 percent to $75.89 and hit an intraday record high of $76.74 a day after the world's No. 1 social network reported earnings and revenue that beat expectations.

On the downside, Caterpillar Inc raised its full-year outlook but posted a decline in sales and its stock slid 3.1 percent to $104.92. Caterpillar, a Dow component, is the world's largest maker of earth-moving equipment.

"There's a tug of war in the market today between the companies that did well and the companies that didn't. Caterpillar was disappointing, but stocks remain reasonably valued and the earnings season supports continued gains," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.63 points or 0.03 percent, to 17,081. The S&P 500 gained 0.66 points or 0.03 percent, to 1,987.67. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.69 points or 0.04 percent, to 4,472.01.

At its record intraday high of 1,991.39, the S&P 500 was just 0.4 percent below the 2,000 milestone.

Among other stocks that made big moves after earnings, sports apparel manufacturer and retailer Under Armour Inc surged 13.4 percent to $68.76 after the company reported that quarterly revenue rose by more than a third. The stock hit an all-time intraday high of $70.25. It was the S&P 500's biggest gainer.

The benchmark index's biggest decliner was D.R. Horton Inc , the No.1 U.S. homebuilder, which tumbled 11.2 percent to $22.03 after the company reported a 23 percent slide in third-quarter profit. The results gave investors a reason to unload some homebuilders' shares.

Ford Motor Co shares rose 0.7 percent to $17.90 after the company's profit beat expectations. General Motors Co shares dropped 4.2 percent to $35.83 after the company reported a much lower second-quarter profit because of numerous recalls and the expected cost of at least $400 million for its victims' compensation fund.

Drugmakers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly both reported earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations, helped by cost controls. Bristol-Myers shares edged up 0.3 percent to $49.47 and Eli Lilly inched up 0.1 percent to $64.30. (Editing by Jan Paschal)

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