* Home Depot and Macy's rally after results
* Market seeks direction after rise to all-time high
* Consumer confidence falls more than expected in Feb
* Dow off 0.2 pct; S&P 500 off 0.1 pct; Nasdaq off 0.1 pct
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 25 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Tuesday, easing back from record territory a day earlier as weak
economic data offset gains in Home Depot and other retail
Seven out of the 10 S&P 500 sector indexes ended lower, led
by industrials while consumer discretionaries
led on the upside.
Gains in U.S. home prices slowed in December, according to
the S&P/Case-Shiller index, while the consumer confidence index
fell more than expected in February.
Selling picked up slightly late in the session as traders
unwound positions after the S&P 500 failed to break above
Monday's intraday record high of 1,858.71, analysts said. The
index remained in negative territory, down 0.2 percent, for the
"We tried to break out again and retest the highs, and since
we failed, people are lightening up their positions they took
earlier," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at
JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Home Depot shares jumped 4 percent to $80.98, giving the
biggest boost to both the Dow and the S&P 500. Home Depot's
earnings beat expectations, though sales fell more than expected
in the fourth quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27.48 points or
0.17 percent, to end at 16,179.66. The S&P 500 slipped
2.49 points or 0.13 percent, to finish at 1,845.12. The Nasdaq
Composite dropped 5.38 points or 0.13 percent, to close
Shares of Macy's Inc gained 6 percent to $56.25 after
the department store operator reported a drop in January sales,
but said fourth-quarter earnings rose from the previous year.
While many analysts have pinned the weakness to harsh winter
weather rather than weakening fundamentals, the retail earnings
suggest that spending has not dried up.
"There are a couple of credible pieces of information that
didn't get caught in the snow drifts," said Fred Dickson, chief
market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
"Consumers are spending."
The S&P retail index rose 1.9 percent, while the
consumer discretionary index gained 0.5 percent.
Investors are anxious to hear from Federal Reserve Chair
Janet Yellen, who will speak on Thursday to the Senate Banking
Committee in her semiannual testimony about monetary policy. Her
comments will be scoured for insight into how bad weather has
affected economic activity, as well as for confirmation that the
Fed will not change its schedule for trimming stimulus.
Among other corporate results, Tenet Healthcare Corp
late Monday swung to a net loss in its fourth quarter. Tenet's
adjusted earnings, however, were better than expected. Its stock
slid 9.1 percent to close at $43.93.
Perry Ellis International Inc shares dropped 17.5
percent to $12.93 and hit their lowest level since late 2011, a
day after the clothing company forecast a decline in quarterly
About 6.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges,
below the 7 billion average so far this month, according to data
from BATS Global Markets.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock
Exchange by a ratio of 8 to 7. On the Nasdaq, nearly eight
stocks fell for every five that rose.