* U.S. Midwest business barometer contracts in April
* Apple could price largest non-bank bond sale in history
* Symantec shares have their own flash crash
* Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.5 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks traded mostly higher on Tuesday, paring initial losses, as home prices and consumer data offset a decline in regional business activity.
Technology stocks led the gainers in the S&P 500, which closed at a record high on Monday. The benchmark index was on track to post its sixth consecutive month of gains.
Apple shares rose 2.3 percent to $438.83 to lead the S&P 500 slightly higher. The iPhone maker came to market with what could turn out to be the largest non-bank bond sale in history, as it seeks funding to return cash to shareholders.
On the economic front, U.S. home prices rose in February at their fastest rate in almost seven years while consumer confidence rebounded in April. However, business activity in the U.S. Midwest unexpectedly contracted in April to its lowest level since September 2009.
Any pullback in the market has been viewed as a buying opportunity, traders and analysts said.
“The consumer confidence data seemed to mark the lows in the market,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
“The continued market strength is drawing people reluctantly off the sidelines and into equities. Whether you want to buy stocks or not, the strength is forcing your hand.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.12 points or 0.07 percent, to 14,808.63. The S&P 500 gained 1.04 points or 0.07 percent, to 1,594.65. The Nasdaq Composite added 14.8 points or 0.45 percent, to 3,321.82.
Equities continue to draw support from expectations that central banks will maintain low interest rates and other economic stimulus measures. A statement from the Federal Reserve due Wednesday is expected to keep in place the central bank’s pace of bond buying to stimulate the economy.
The European Central Bank will meet on Thursday. A Reuters poll of economists showed policymakers are expected to cut interest rates.
The S&P 500 ended at an all-time high on Monday as growth-oriented stocks, including energy and technology shares, drove the index’s sixth rise in the past seven sessions.
A positive finish to April would deliver a sixth straight month of gains. That would be the longest winning streak since September 2009, when the S&P 500 rallied for seven straight months. The broad market index is up 1.6 percent for the month.
“Short interest is rising, but the market continues to move higher. If the S&P were to break over 1,600, we could see a monster short squeeze,” said Jim Brown, editor of options analytics firm optioninvestor.com, in a note late on Monday.
Pfizer shares weighed on the Dow industrials after the drug maker posted lower-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue, and trimmed its full-year profit outlook. Its stock fell 3.3 percent to $29.42.
U.S. retailer Best Buy retreated from its ill-fated European expansion by selling its stake in a joint venture to Carphone Warehouse Group for less than half what it paid five years ago. Best Buy shares jumped 8 percent to $26.14.
Shares of security software maker Symantec Corp dropped 10 percent in a span of a few seconds before trading was halted. Equity traders called the move another single-stock “flash crash,” in reference to the May 2010 selloff when the Dow fall more than 600 points in a matter of minutes. Symantec was down 1.2 percent at $24.30 at midday.