US STOCKS-Wall St dips after rally; investors seek next catalyst

Last Updated: Thu, May 09, 2013 16:40 hrs

* Jobless claims unexpectedly fall in latest week

* Barnes & Noble soars after TechCrunch report of Microsoft interest

* Tesla Motors and Groupon soar after results

* Dow off 0.1 pct; S&P down 0.3 pct; Nasdaq off 0.04 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, May 9 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged lower on Thursday, coming off its record highs, as data showing signs of improvement in the labor market was not enough of a catalyst to add to the recent upward momentum.

Utility and financial stocks were among the top decliners as investors unloaded some shares to take profits from the recent rally. The S&P utilities sector index slid 1.3 percent, while the S&P financial sector index shed 0.5 percent.

Technology shares, which were lower in earlier trading, turned around as Apple erased losses to trade flat by midday. Apple was off 0.1 percent at $460.36.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in almost 5-1/2 years - contrary to economists' forecast of a gain - U.S. Labor Department data showed. But the stock market's reaction was muted, with Wall Street coming off a sustained rally that took the S&P 500 to record closing highs for five straight sessions.

"We've had such a consistent upward move that investors need some real new news to keep the momentum going," said Rick Meckler, president of hedge fund LibertyView Capital Management LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey.

"The jobless claims were a good number, but not enough of 'new news.' Investors want to see something that shows a good pickup in economic activity."

The market's uptrend has been boosted by strong corporate earnings and an accommodative monetary environment from the Federal Reserve, which analysts say makes stocks cheaper than other asset classes on a valuation basis. Investors have used any market declines in 2013 as a buying opportunity.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 9.73 points, or 0.06 percent, at 15,095.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 4.31 points, or 0.26 percent, at 1,628.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.51 points, or 0.04 percent, at 3,411.75.

The S&P 500 has climbed about 14.3 percent so far this year, while the Dow has advanced about 15.2 percent and the Nasdaq has gained 13.1 percent. Still, the market remains below overbought territory, with the relative strength index on the S&P 500 slightly below 70.

While moves have been slight this week - the S&P rose just 0.5 percent on its strongest day - the three major U.S. stock indexes have ended sessions higher than where they began, an indication that positive momentum will continue. Trading volumes have been below average, however, which could indicate a lack of conviction.

Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc jumped 19.3 percent to $21.19, after hitting a fresh 52-week high of $22.25 after web publication TechCrunch reported that Microsoft Corp was considering an offer to acquire all of Nook Media's digital assets for $1 billion.

Microsoft shares slipped 0.5 percent to $32.81.

Tesla Motors Inc jumped 25.7 percent to $70.20 a day after posting adjusted earnings that were three times what analysts were expecting as the company sold more cars than it had initially forecast.

News Corp reported earnings late Wednesday that beat expectations while revenue rose 14 percent. Rupert Murdoch's media company also said it was on track to split off its slow-growing publishing business by the end of June. Shares rose 4.1 percent to $33.18.

Groupon Inc posted revenue growth of 7.5 percent in the first quarter, more than analysts had expected. Its stock surged 9.1 percent to $6.10.

With about 440 S&P 500 companies having reported results so far, earnings have largely been better than expected this quarter, with the majority surpassing estimates. On the other hand, most companies have missed revenue expectations.

More from Sify: