* Home Depot and Macy's rally after results
* Markets seek direction after rise to all-time high
* Consumer confidence falls more than expected in Feb
* Indexes down: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 25 U.S. stocks fell modestly on
Tuesday, with investors finding few reasons to buy following a
rally that took the S&P 500 to an all-time intraday high.
Both Home Depot Inc and Macy's Inc rallied
following their results, but the strength in retail stocks was
not enough for traders to continue pushing shares higher.
Monday's advance to record levels fully erased the S&P's
biggest pullback in more than a year and raised new questions
about what catalysts will drive shares decisively higher from
here. While the market's upward trend is still viewed as intact,
Wall Street ended below its highs on Monday, with the S&P
failing to close at a record.
"We're not being aggressive, since valuations aren't
spectacular here, but this certainly isn't a time to run to
cash," said Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington
Trust in Atlanta, Georgia. "We expect we'll take two steps
forward and one step back for a while."
In the latest economic data, home prices rose slightly more
than expected in December, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller
index, though February consumer confidence fell more than
expected, dropping to 78.1 from 80.7.
The confidence report was the latest in a string of economic
data that came in below forecasts. While many analysts pin the
weakness to harsh winter weather rather than weakening
fundamentals, trading are looking for evidence the market's
levels are justified.
"We're waiting to see how much of this weakness is on
weather, since if the market gets spooked we could see a big
pullback," said Macey, who helps oversee about $20 billion.
"However, you look ahead to 2015, the market likes what it sees,
so we would view any pullback as a buying opportunity."
Home Depot rose 2.5 percent to $79.81. The Dow component's
earnings beat expectations, though sales fell more than expected
in the fourth quarter. Macy's Inc gained 2.7 percent to
$54.50 after the retailer reported a drop in January sales,
though its fourth-quarter earnings rose from the prior year.
The S&P retail index rose 0.9 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 26.23
points, or 0.16 percent, at 16,180.91. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 3.71 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,843.90.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 10.59 points, or
0.25 percent, at 4,282.37.
Many traders are looking ahead to Thursday, when Federal
Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will speak to the Senate Banking
Committee in semi-annual testimony about monetary policy. The
comments will be scoured for insight into how much bad weather
has affected economic activity, as well as for confirmation the
Fed will not change its schedule for trimming stimulus.
Tenet Healthcare Corp late Monday swung to a net
loss in its fourth quarter, though adjusted earnings were better
than expected. Shares fell 5.8 percent to $45.51.
Biocryst Pharmaceuticals Inc rose 12 percent to
$13.03 after the company said the Food and Drug Administration
had accepted the new drug application for its Peramivir product.
Sina Corp shares fell 8.4 percent to $69.72 a day
after the company reported adjusted earnings that beat estimates
by a penny, even as revenue jumped 43 percent.
Perry Ellis International Inc late Monday forecast
a fall in quarterly revenue, sending shares down 17 percent to
$13, their lowest level since late 2011.