* Isis shares jump on drug results; Biogen up
* G Asset Management offers to buy stake in Barnes & Noble
* Groupon shares drop after company forecasts loss
* U.S. home resales fall to 18-month low in January
* Dow off 0.2 pct; S&P 500 down 0.2 pct; Nasdaq off 0.1 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks slipped on Friday
on options-related trading, with the S&P 500 facing resistance
as it flirts with its record high even as economic data
continues to underwhelm.
Shares declined late in the session due in part to trades
related to options expiration, according to market participants.
U.S. home resales, also known as existing home sales, fell
more than expected in January and hit an 18 month-low as the
combination of cold weather and a lack of housing stock
sidelined potential buyers.
Traders have selectively dismissed weak economic data, which
is being blamed on the extreme weather that has affected large
swaths of the United States.
An index of homebuilder stocks rose 0.8 percent to
hit a nine-month closing high.
"The bigger picture theme is we continue to see economic
reports that have been pretty underwhelming, but any
disappointing data has been shrugged off and attributed to
weather," said Michael James, managing director of equity
trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
"You would have expected that the markets would be a fair
amount lower than where they are."
The S&P 500 ended 0.66 percent below its record close of
1,848.38 set on Jan. 15.
"The late-day selling was somewhat induced by the futures
and options expirations on the close; it's hard to put too much
credence in the market's action in the last couple hours because
there's so much positioning that has to do with where things
close," James said.
February individual equity options and some options
on stock indexes stopped trading at Friday's close and will
settle on Saturday. Typically, options expiration is orderly,
but some volatility may occur as players unwind those positions
against stock and index products. Volume, however, was below the
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 29.93 points or
0.19 percent, to end at 16,103.30. The S&P 500 lost 3.53
points or 0.19 percent, to finish at 1,836.25. The Nasdaq
Composite dropped 4.135 points or 0.10 percent, to close
For the week, the Dow fell 0.3 percent and the S&P 500
dipped 0.1 percent. The Nasdaq, up 0.5 percent, scored its third
consecutive week of gains.
Giving support to equities, data showed that fund investors
worldwide poured a net $8.3 billion into funds that specialize
in U.S. equities in the week ending Feb. 19. Inflows into global
stock funds were $13.4 billion, the biggest in 12 weeks.
Shares of Isis Pharmaceuticals surged 15.5 percent
to $59 after the company said a mid-stage trial of its
experimental treatment for a rare spinal disorder showed that it
increased muscle function in children. Shares of Biogen
, Isis' partner in the drug's development, hit a record
high of $349.77 on the news before closing up 3.6 percent at
Priceline.com stock rose 2.5 percent and ranked as
one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers, rising to close at a
record $1,315.65 a day after the online travel company reported
results that beat expectations.
Hewlett-Packard Co also reported results that topped
expectations, and the computer maker raised its 2014 profit
view, though its stock fell 1.3 percent to end at $29.79.
Investment firm G Asset Management said it had offered to
take a 51 percent stake in either Barnes & Noble Inc or
in the bookseller's Nook digital books and device business.
Barnes and Noble shares rose 5.4 percent to $17.69.
Shares of Safeway Inc rose 4.3 percent to $36.84 on
news that the U.S. grocery store operator is in advanced talks
with private equity firm Cerberus Capital over a leveraged
buyout deal that may come within the next few weeks, according
to people familiar with the matter.
Groupon shares tumbled 21.9 percent to $8.03 a day
after the daily deals website unexpectedly forecast a quarterly
loss, even as it reported revenue that was ahead of
About 6.55 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges,
according to the latest available data from BATS Global Markets,
below the 7.0 billion average so far in February.
Despite the slight drop in the major indexes, advancing
issues outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange
by a ratio of about 4 to 3. On the Nasdaq, about 13 issues rose
for every 12 that fell.