* Retailers post mixed monthly sales in January
* Greenlight Capital sues Apple
* Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.03 pct, Nasdaq off 0.1 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed
on Thursday after data showed modest improvement in the labor
market and retailers posted mixed monthly sales.
Weekly initial jobless claims dipped last week, with the
four-week moving average falling to its lowest level since March
2008, signaling the economy continues to recover slowly.
A separate report said fourth-quarter productivity
registered its biggest drop in nearly two years, while unit
labor costs jumped 4.5 percent, more than economists expected.
"Claims didn't look too exciting. They are pretty much in
line. The bigger surprise was the jump in unit labor costs that
was pretty substantial," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief
investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle,
"Overall the market took the whole thing in stride."
Recent data has pointed to a slow improvement in the
economy, but one without enough strength to cause the Federal
Reserve to abandon its easy monetary policy, which has helped
the benchmark S&P index to climb 6 percent this year.
"We are probably in a pretty stable policy regime from the
Fed standpoint, certainly until midyear, then as we get later in
the year if we are seeing the economy picking up, then maybe
they start taking their foot off the accelerator a little bit,"
Several U.S. retailers reported mixed January sales results,
as consumers faced a hit to their take-home pay from higher
payroll taxes. The S&P retail index gained 0.3 percent.
Macy's Inc rose 1.4 percent to $40.04 after reporting
January same store sales rose 11.7 percent.
But Ann Inc dropped 7.9 percent to $30.20 after
forecasting fourth-quarter sales below analysts' expectations.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 13.90
points, or 0.10 percent, to 13,972.62. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index dropped 0.43 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,511.69.
The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 3.04 points, or 0.10
percent, to 3,165.43.
Fund manager David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital on Thursday
said it has sued Apple Inc and said the company needs
to do more to unlock value for shareholders. Apple shares gained
1 percent to $459.27.
Akami Technologies Inc lost 17.8 percent to $34.17
as the worst performer on the S&P 500 after the Internet content
delivery company forecast current-quarter revenue below
According to Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning,
of 317 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69
percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent
average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters.
Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies rose 5
percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at
the start of the earnings season.
The European Central Bank held its main interest rate
unchanged at 0.75 percent, as expected.