* S&P 500 has been unable to reach record level
* Target and Lowe's rally after results
* January new home sales surge past forecasts
* Indexes down: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.1 pct
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 26 U.S. stocks were nearly flat on
Wednesday, with the S&P 500 holding below resistance levels even
as retailers gained for a second day.
Shares of retailers Target Corp and Lowe's Cos Inc
rose, giving the S&P 500 its biggest boosts.
The S&P 500 hit a record intraday high of 1,858.71 on Monday
but has been unable to break above it since then.
"We are just biding time to see which way this market is
going to go, if it's going to break through or if we are going
to have a pullback here," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment
strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.
In another positive sign, new home sales surged to a
5-1/2-year high in January, far outpacing expectations. While
much recent data have been below forecasts, analysts have
attributed that to bad weather rather than worsening
fundamentals. The housing data could support that
But investors also were watching for changes in Ukraine
after Russian President Vladimir Putin put 150,000 combat troops
on high alert for war games near Ukraine.
"It's bigger automatically because Russia is involved,"
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.77 points or
0.07 percent, to 16,168.89, the S&P 500 lost 2.5 points
or 0.14 percent, to 1,842.62 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 3.649 points or 0.09 percent, to 4,283.938.
Target jumped 7.1 percent to $60.35 after reporting its
results, even as the retailer said the sales and earnings had
been impacted by a massive data breach and that costs relating
to the event could hurt future profits.
Lowe's stock rose 4.9 percent to $50.48 after the home
improvement retailer reported earnings and sales growth and an
additional stock buyback program of $5 billion. The results came
a day after peer Home Depot also posted strong earnings.
Market moves may be slight until Thursday, when Federal
Reserve Chair Janet Yellen addresses the Senate Banking
Committee in semi-annual testimony about monetary policy. Her
comments will be scoured for insight into how much an
unexpectedly cold winter has affected economic activity, and for
confirmation the Fed will maintain its stimulus-trimming
On the downside, both Chesapeake Energy Corp and
First Solar Inc fell after posting declines in
earnings. First Solar shares dropped 9.8 percent to $52.30 a day
after the solar panel maker reported that its fourth-quarter net
income fell 58 percent. Chesapeake fell 5.2
percent to $25.54 after it swung to a net loss on charges
related to employee termination costs.