* Yellen says some data weak, weather impact uncertain
* Jobless claims up, durable goods top forecasts
* J.C. Penny, Best Buy rally after results
* Indexes: Dow and S&P 500 flat, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 27 U.S. stocks were little changed
on Thursday as comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen
failed to provide clarity on the impact of a harsh winter on
recent economic weakness, while concerns rose over turmoil in
Addressing the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen said some
economic data had been weaker since she spoke to the House of
Representatives on Feb. 11, but that it was difficult to say how
much of that was due to weather. Yellen also confirmed that the
central bank would keep to its stimulus-trimming schedule.
The theory that some recent lackluster data was due to the
weather rather than worsening fundamentals had helped investors
shrug off the data and recently took the S&P 500 to a record
high. However, the benchmark index has struggled to break
decisively above its 2013 year-end closing level of 1,848.36,
and trading could take a more pronounced turn to the downside on
indications the economy is slowing.
In the latest economic report, orders for durable goods fell
1 percent in January, a drop that was less than forecast.
However, jobless claims unexpectedly rose in the latest week.
"Durables came in better than feared, but it is difficult to
tell what the weather impact was, and what the impact of an
actual slowdown might be," said Joseph Tanious, global market
strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in New York. "I think
we're in a cyclical slowdown now, and the weather isn't helping,
although it should create pent-up demand."
Geopolitical tensions mounted after armed men seized the
regional government headquarters and parliament in Ukraine's
Crimea and raised the Russian flag. Ukraine's parliament
appointed former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk as prime
minister, while ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich said he was
still president in a statement sent to Russian news agencies
from an unknown location.
The Ukraine uncertainty spurred investors to head for the
safety of U.S. Treasuries, where yields fell to
"As an investor, you need to weigh the possibility of
something going wrong against the probability of something going
right," said Tanious. "It is a headwind to sentiment, but unless
it has a big impact on oil, which I don't expect, we should work
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 6.52 points,
or 0.04 percent, at 16,204.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 0.69 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,845.85. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.54 points, or 0.15
percent, at 4,298.61.
Both J.C. Penney Co Inc and Best Buy Co Inc
jumped after posting strong results, with Penney late Wednesday
forecasting more improvement in its comparable sales and gross
profit margin this fiscal year and Best Buy posting adjusted
earnings that topped forecasts.
Penney surged 21 percent to $7.23 while Best Buy advanced
5.4 percent to $27.22. The S&P retail index dipped 0.1
percent following a five-day rally.
Also on Thursday, Sears Holding Corp reported a
quarterly loss that narrowed from the year-ago period, sending
shares up 5.1 percent to $42.48, and Kohl's Corp said it
expected modest sales gains in its new fiscal year and reported
a lower fourth-quarter profit. Shares of Kohl's rose 1.3 percent