(Corrects Nasdaq Composite Index closing price in paragraph 10)
* S&P 500 in longest weekly streak since Dec 2010-Jan 2011
* Equities continue to struggle for direction in tight range
* Herbalife shares soar after Icahn discloses ownership
* Indexes: Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 15 The S&P 500 dipped in a late
decline on Friday as Wal-Mart dropped following a report of a
weak start to February sales, though the index just barely
extended its streak of weekly gains to seven.
Equities were little changed for much of the session, with
investors finding few reasons to make big bets following an
extended rally on Wall Street, but stocks turned lower in
Wal-Mart Stores Inc dropped 2.1 percent to $69.30
after Bloomberg News reported a weak start to February sales,
citing internal company e-mails. The stock was the biggest
decliner on the Dow, while the S&P retail index fell
"When a retailer of this size comes out with this kind of
lousy news, the whole market can fall off, especially on a
Friday afternoon," said Mike Shea, trader at Direct Access
Partners in New York. "However, I'm not worried that this is
indicative of any larger macro issue with retail."
Equities have struggled for direction recently, with major
indexes moving only slightly in the past several sessions. The
S&P didn't end a session with a move greater than 0.2 percent at
all this week.
The benchmark index, up 6.6 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.
"There's no news that suggests the strong underpinning for
stocks isn't appropriate. We may have gotten ahead of ourselves,
but there's also an absence of bad news," said Mark Luschini,
chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in
Many investors are starting to look ahead to a debate in
Washington over sequestration, automatic across-the-board
spending cuts put in place as part of a larger congressional
budget fight. The cuts are due to kick in March 1 unless
lawmakers agree to an alternative.
"This had been far enough out to not yet become an
impediment for stocks, but it will start to move into the
forefront and cause people to take a bit of a jaundiced eye
towards the market," said Luschini, who helps oversee about $54
billion in assets.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.27 points,
or 0.08 percent, at 13,984.66. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 0.32 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,521.70. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.21 percent at
For the week, both the Dow and Nasdaq fell 0.1 percent while
the S&P rose 0.1 percent in its seventh straight week of gains,
a period during which the index rose 8.4 percent. The last such
seven-week run was between December 2010 and January 2011.
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
Wall Street's gain thus far in 2013 has largely been driven
by strong corporate earnings, while data indicated some
weakening in economic conditions.
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 cut earlier gains to rise 1.2
percent to $38.74. Late Thursday, 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 12.5 percent to $35.65 as
the biggest percentage gainer on the S&P index after activist
investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management LP said it had
bought about 1.6 million shares of the packaging company.
Burger King Worldwide shares gained 4.7 percent to
$17.36 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 5.1 percent drop
in shares of Transocean to $56.26, 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 1.5 percent.
Slightly more stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock
Exchange while about 50 percent of Nasdaq shares ended lower.
About 6.69 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock
Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, above the daily average so
far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.
(Editing by Nick Zieminski)