US STOCKS-Wall St flat after claims data as technology shares drag

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 11, 2013 14:10 hrs

* Retailers climb as monthly sales reported

* PC shares drop after firm says PC sales plummeted in Q1

* Jobless claims drop more than expected

* Indexes: Dow up 0.03 pct, S&P up 0.02 pct, Nasdaq off 0.15 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, April 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday as weakness in the technology sector offset gains spurred by an upbeat report on the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 346,000 last week, the Labor Department said, beating expectations for a drop to 365,000, and unwinding a jump in the previous week.

But technology stocks fell, dragged down by PC-related companies such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Intel Corp, after a leading tech tracking firm said personal computer sales plunged 14 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest decline in two decades of keeping records.

Hewlett-Packard fell 6.3 percent to $20.91, Microsoft shed 4.4 percent to $29.94 and Intel lost 3.3 percent to $21.51 to rank among the biggest drags on the both Dow and S&P 500. The S&P technology sector lost 0.8 percent.

In addition, Goldman Sachs cut its rating on Microsoft to "sell" from "neutral."

"They are all getting hit because it looks like PC sales again were weak as that form of device is losing share to tablets, smartphones and lower-priced laptops," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

"That is weighing on the market this morning."

Both the Dow and S&P had climbed more than 1 percent on Wednesday to close at new record highs after three straight days of gains.

Other data showed import prices slipped 0.5 percent last month, in line with expectations, while export prices fell 0.4 percent, signaling inflation pressure remained tepid and would allow the Federal Reserve to continue with its current monetary policy.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 4.18 points, or 0.03 percent, to 14,806.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 0.39 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,588.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 4.85 points, or 0.15 percent, to 3,292.41.

Shares of Yum Brands Inc slipped 0.2 percent to $66.62 after the biggest foreign fast-food chain operator in China said Wednesday the latest deadly avian flu outbreak would have a "significant, negative impact" on sales at KFC stores in China in April.

Retailers advanced as they posted monthly sales results. Warehouse club chain Costco Wholesale Corp reported a 4 percent rise in March sales at stores open at least a year, missing analysts' expectations, due to lower fuel prices and a strong dollar.

Costco gained 0.1 percent to $105.86 and the Morgan Stanley retail index rose 1.2 percent.

Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc surged 42.5 percent to $11.36 after the drugmaker said data from an initial late-stage trial would be sufficient to file for approval for its experimental Parkinson's Disease drug, and it would not need to conduct an additional trial as it had planned earlier.

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