* Priceline and Hewlett-Packard both beat expectations
* Groupon shares tumble after forecasting loss
* Existing home sales fall to 18-month low in Jan
* Indexes up: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 21 U.S. stocks edged higher on
Friday, with the S&P 500 within grasp of record levels in the
wake of strong results at Priceline, though investors found
little reason to push shares solidly higher following a recent
Traders continued to watch the political situation in
Ukraine, with EU mediators expecting an agreement between
Ukraine's pro-European opposition and Russian-backed President
Viktor Yanukovich, though the former was seeking last-minute
changes to the deal.
Geopolitical concerns may take on a bigger role next week,
when there will be few U.S. earnings and data releases to
otherwise drive trading.
A report showed existing home sales fell more than expected
to an 18-month low in January, the latest metric to indicate
softness, though many analysts pin the weakness to weather
instead of worsening fundamentals.
"We think the market is fairly valued, and there's
reluctance to get excited at these levels, even though stocks
remain the best bet on a long-term basis," said Malcolm Polley,
president and chief investment officer of Stewart Capital
Advisors in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Priceline.com Inc jumped 3.2 percent as one of the
S&P 500's biggest gainers, rising to $1,324.08 a day after
reporting results that beat expectations.
Hewlett Packard Co also reported results that topped
expectations, and the computer maker also raised its 2014 profit
view, though shares dipped 1.3 percent to $29.79.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 33.06 points,
or 0.20 percent, at 16,166.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 3.83 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,843.61. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.70 points, or 0.25
percent, at 4,278.24.
For the week, the Dow is up less than 0.1 percent, the S&P
500 is up 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq is up 0.8 percent. All
three indexes are gunning for a third week of advances, and the
S&P is 0.2 percent away from an all-time high of 1,848.38
reached Jan. 15.
In company news, Groupon Inc slumped 16 percent to
$8.62 a day after unexpectedly forecasting a quarterly loss,
even as it reported revenue that was ahead of expectations.
Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co
late Thursday forecast 2014 earnings in line with Wall Street
expectations and said it expects long-term earnings growth of up
to 20 percent per year. Shares fell 3.9 percent to $74.10.
Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk told
Bloomberg TV that the company has had "conversations" with Apple
Inc, responding to speculation that the iPhone and iPad
maker had shown interest in the electric car company. Musk
declined to describe the talks, though he said it was "very
unlikely" that Tesla would be bought by any company. Shares were
up 0.7 percent at $211.45.