* Equities have hovered near highs for two weeks
* Heinz to be acquired by Buffett, 3G Capital; its shares
* U.S. jobless claims hint at firming job market
* Dow down 0.1 pct; S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 14 The S&P 500 eked out a small
gain for a third straight session on Thursday, helped by a
flurry of merger activity, though investors see no catalysts to
lift the market further with major averages near multi-year
The market's slowed advance took the S&P 500 to its highest
intraday level since November 2007 on Wednesday. While the index
notched its third straight day of gains, none was more than 0.2
Shares of H.J. Heinz Co jumped 20 percent to $72.50
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 $99.21.
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 2.4 percent, dropping to 12.67.
"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.
Equities have struggled to break above 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.
"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,"
said Selkin, who helps oversee about $3 billion in assets.
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 9.52
points, or 0.07 percent, at 13,973.39. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 1.05 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,521.38.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.78 points, or 0.06
percent, at 3,198.66.
Constellation Brands soared 37 percent to $43.75
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 $92.77.
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 4.6 percent to $13.99.
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 dipped 0.7 percent to $20.99.
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 3.3 percent to $27.73.
Only five more stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock
Exchange, while 51 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares closed
Volume was light, with about 6.36 billion shares changing
hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT,
below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion