* S&P, Nasdaq sag, but well off lows as investors buy on the
* P&G shares climb after CEO replacement
* Fed's possible stimulus exit keeps investors nervous
* Dow up 0.1 pct; S&P 500 off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.1 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 24 U.S. stocks mostly declined for
a third day on Friday, putting indexes on track for their first
negative week since mid-April, on lingering concern that the
U.S. central bank may scale back its stimulus measures to
support the economy.
Still, major U.S. stock indexes came off their lows. The Dow
edged into positive territory by late afternoon trading, buoyed
by a 4 percent gain in Procter & Gamble.
A jump in April orders for long-lasting manufactured goods,
such as refrigerators and toasters, painted an encouraging
"A day like today is clear evidence that there is still
money on the sideline to get into equities, (and investors are)
looking for almost any excuse to get in," said Tim Ghriskey,
chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Mangment in Bedford
Hills, New York.
"This has been happening all week. Investors are taking
advantage of down days to put more cash to work, especially when
the decline is not based on something fundamental."
Trading has been choppy in the second half of the week as
market participants assess the Federal Reserve's evolving stance
toward markets. The Fed's stimulus measures have been
instrumental in a rally that has driven U.S. stocks to record
highs this year.
Even as there is some fear that the Fed will exit too soon,
many analysts say the eventual tapering of the central bank's
stimulus will come with an expansion of the economy and
corporate earnings, which will continue to support equities.
"A lot of people have only been giving the Fed credit for
this rally and not been talking about some of the improvement in
the labor market or housing data," said Joe Bell, a senior
equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.
"The economy in general has been on a lot better footing
than perhaps people have given it credit for."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 10.23 points,
or 0.07 percent, at 15,304.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was down 1.30 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,649.21. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.04 points, or 0.09
percent, at 3,456.37.
The three major U.S. stock indexes were on track to post
their first negative week in five.
Procter & Gamble shares rose 3.7 percent to $81.60
after the world's largest household products maker brought back
A.G. Lafley as chief executive Thursday, replacing Bob McDonald
in the midst of a major restructuring.
Tesla Motors rose to a fresh high on Friday as
short interest fell, suggesting another bout of short-covering
in the electric car maker's shares.
Tesla jumped 4.7 percent to $97.04 after rising as high as
$97.95. At the same time, shares borrowed as a percentage of
outstanding shares fell to 12.3 percent as of Thursday,
according to data from Markit. That's well off a level of more
than 20 percent that was seen just a few weeks ago.
A wave of short-covering earlier in the month drove huge
gains in Tesla. The stock's price has more than doubled since
the beginning of April.
Abercrombie & Fitch was among the S&P 500's biggest
losers after the teen clothing retailer cut its profit forecast
and said quarterly comparable sales fell 15 percent, which it
blamed in part on inventory shortages. Its stock lost 7.1
percent to $50.53.
Shares of Sears Holdings sank 14.1 percent to
$49.96 after the U.S. retailer reported a bigger-than-expected
quarterly loss on Thursday. Sears said cooler spring weather
hurt its results.
Overall, the U.S. stock market's pullbacks have been short
and shallow since November as traders have taken any weakness as
an opportunity to increase long positions.
Since Wednesday, the markets have been focused on the
possibility that the Fed's $85 billion per month in bond
purchases will be scaled back later this year, in the wake of
recent congressional testimony by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and
the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's latest
The minutes showed a degree of fracture among the FOMC's
members "in terms of the approach moving forward, specifically
the time frame" of the unwinding of the Fed's stimulus efforts,
said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Knight Capital in
Jersey City, New Jersey.
Durable goods orders rose 3.3 percent in April, exceeding
expectations for an increase of 1.5 percent. The data suggested
that a sharp slowdown in factory output could soon run its