* Home Depot and Macy's rally after results
* Stocks seek direction day after S&P hits intraday record
* 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 financials and industrials, while consumer
discretionaries led on the upside.
The day's data showed 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 close at $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 deteriorating 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 is due to 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
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 tumbled 17.5
percent to $12.93, their lowest level since late 2011, a day
after the clothing company forecast a decline in quarterly
After the bell, shares of First Solar Inc dropped
12.3 percent to $50.90 after the solar panel maker reported that
its fourth-quarter net income fell 58
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.