US STOCKS-S&P 500 up for 5th day; central bank action awaited

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 09, 2012 18:50 hrs

* Cisco shares up after Goldman adds to top list

* U.S. data supports modest economic growth

* Chinese data leaves door open for more stimulus

* Dow down 0.07, S&P up 0.06 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

By Anna Louie Sussman

NEW YORK, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged slightly higher on Thursday, up for a fifth session, on better-than-expected jobless claims and trade data in the United States and hopes of further stimulus action from China's central bank.

The Nasdaq outperformed the broader market, led higher by Cisco Systems Inc after Goldman Sachs added the network equipment maker's stock to its conviction buy list and Piper Jaffray raised its Cisco rating to "overweight."

Cisco shares rose 3.2 percent to $17.71.

The indexes seesawed throughout the morning, with the S&P 500 mostly hovering above 1,400 in light trade. The benchmark index was up 1 percent for the week.

"At the moment, we're just in a holding pattern. There are no negative headlines out of Europe at the moment to spook the markets, and maybe we're not going to have any for the month since Europe is on hiatus for the month of August. It's not that that headline risk is gone, but it seems to be gone for the moment," said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 8.59 points, or 0.07 percent, to 13,167.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.83 points, or 0.06 percent, to 1,403.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.68 points, or 0.19 percent, to 3,016.93.

The S&P 500, up for five weeks, has slowly and steadily ticked upwards as investors bet central banks, including the Federal Reserve, will soon act in support of a stalling global economic recovery.

A raft of weak Chinese economic data kept alive talk that central banks will intervene to support the global economy. Annual growth in factory output slowed to its lowest in more than three years in July while annual consumer price inflation hit a 30-month low, suggesting its central bank had room to maneuver.

Data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week while the U.S. trade deficit in June was the smallest in 1-1/2 years, hopeful signs for the struggling economy.

Beauty products maker Elizabeth Arden forecast 2013 profit above estimates on stronger sales and its shares jumped 8.5 percent to $42.27.

Nestle, the world's biggest food group, said first-half results beat expectations and it expects pressure from the high prices of basic foodstuffs to ease in the second half of the year. Its shares, traded in Switzerland, rose 2.4 percent.

Shares of Robbins & Myers jumped 27.4 percent to $59.60 after National Oilwell Varco said it will buy Robbins & Myers for $2.54 billion in cash.

Beverage maker Monster saw its shares drop 8.4 percent to $62.11 after its results missed estimates.

Of the 445 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter earnings through Thursday morning, 68 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations, in line with the average over the last four quarters.

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