* Burger King profit jumps, shares follow
* Herbalife shares soar after Icahn discloses ownership
* Indexes off: Dow 0.05 pct, S&P 0.09 pct, Nasdaq up 0.06
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 15 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Friday as equities continued a phase of consolidation after a
strong start to the year but the seven-week winning streak for
the S&P 500 remained intact.
The S&P 500, up nearly 7 percent so far this year, is facing
strong technical resistance near the 1,525 level. But investors,
expecting the index to advance further in the quarter, have held
back from locking in profits.
"It looks like a little bit of profit taking, normal
consolidation after a big run and maybe we might be seeing the
first signs of nervousness ahead of the sequestration debate
that will most likely starting up when Congress comes back,"
said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co
in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The "sequestration" - automatic across-the-board spending
cuts put in place as part of a larger congressional budget fight
- are due to kick in March 1 unless lawmakers agree to an
Data released Friday illustrated the bumpy road the U.S.
economic recovery continues to take.
The New York Federal Reserve said manufacturing in New York
state expanded for the first time in seven months, while Thomson
Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading of consumer
sentiment rose from the prior month and beat expectations.
But U.S. manufacturing fell in January after a rise in the
"We are at a point where the macro news will continue to be
a two-steps forward, one-step back kind of progression, with
most of the news showing a firmness, but an occasional data
point that will represent a step back," Jim Russell, senior
equity strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Cincinnati.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 6.64 points,
or 0.05 percent, to 13,966.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
shed 1.35 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,520.03. The
Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.77 points, or 0.06
percent, to 3,196.89.
The benchmark S&P 500 is up 0.13 percent for the week and is
on track to register its seventh straight week of gains by the
close of trading Friday, a feat not seen since a run of
consecutive weekly gains between December 2010 and January 2011.
A surge in merger and acquisition activity, with more than
$158 billion in deals announced so far in 2013, has given
further support to the equity market as it points to healthy
valuations and bets on the economic outlook.
Herbalife shares pared earlier gains and were up 7.1
percent to $41, a day after billionaire investor Carl Icahn said
in a regulatory filing that he now owns 13 percent of Herbalife
and was ready to put it in play.
MeadWestvaco Corp climbed 9.8 percent to $34.77 as
the biggest percentage gainer on the S&P index after activist
investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management LP said in an SEC
filing it had bought about 1.6 million shares of the packaging
Burger King Worldwide shares gained 2.5 percent to
$17 after it beat estimates with a 94 percent rise in
fourth-quarter profit, thanks to new menu additions.
Oil service stocks declined, weighed by a 5.5 percent drop
in shares of Transocean to $56.05, after the rig
contractor reported its fleet update and Deutsche Bank cut its
rating on the stock to "sell." The PHLX oil service sector
lost 1.7 percent.