* Equities have been hovering around current levels for two
* Heinz shares rally, Berkshire and 3G Capital to buy
* U.S. jobless claims hint at firming job market
* Indexes: Dow down 0.1 pct; S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq flat
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 14 U.S. stocks were little changed
on Thursday as investors found few reasons to keep pushing
prices higher with major averages near multi-year highs, though
a flurry of merger deals kept indexes steady.
Wall Street has rallied lately, with the S&P 500 briefly
hitting its highest intraday level since November 2007 in
Wednesday's session. Still, there are few obvious catalysts to
continue the rally, and while the S&P is on track for its third
straight day of gains, none of those daily gains was more than
Shares of H.J. Heinz Co jumped 20 percent to $72.40
after it said Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and
3G Capital will buy the food company for $72.50 a share, or $28
billion including debt. Berkshire's class B shares rose 1.3
percent to $99.22.
Also supporting the market was data showing the number of
Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more
than expected in the latest week. The CBOE Volatility index
fell 1.4 percent, dropping to 12.8.
"While I'm not bearish, I don't see many upside motivations
at these levels," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at
National Securities in New York, who cited the low level of the
VIX as a sign the market was overbought.
"We need to digest some of our gains to go higher, but
people are so eager to buy on the dips that we're not even
seeing dips anymore. People are just chasing the market higher."
Equities have struggled to break above their current levels,
where they have been hovering for almost two weeks. The S&P 500
is up more than 6 percent so far this year.
Stocks fell earlier after a report the euro zone's gross
domestic product contracted by the steepest amount since the
first quarter of 2009. In addition, Japan's GDP shrank 0.1
percent in the fourth quarter, crushing expectations of a modest
return to growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 10.21
points, or 0.07 percent, at 13,972.70. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 1.21 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,521.54.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.12 points, or 0.03
percent, at 3,197.99.
Constellation Brands soared more than 38 percent to
$43.93 after AB InBev's deal to take over Mexican brewer Grupo
Modelo was revised to grant Constellation
perpetual rights to distribute Corona and other Modelo brands in
the United States. U.S. shares of AB InBev gained 5.1
percent to $92.72.
American Airlines and US Airways Group said they
plan to merge in a deal that will form the world's biggest air
carrier, with an equity valuation of about $11 billion. US
Airways shares fell 9.1 percent to $13.32.
Weakness in Europe contributed to a 5 percent drop in
revenue from the region for Cisco Systems, which
nonetheless beat estimates as it reported its results late
Wednesday. The company's shares slid 1.3 percent to $20.87.
General Motors Co reported a weaker-than-expected
fourth-quarter profit, also citing bigger losses in Europe
alongside lower prices in its core North American market. The
stock was off 2.8 percent at $27.88.