US STOCKS-Wall St flat as rally runs out of steam, results eyed

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 07, 2013 05:03 hrs

* Transportation stocks among worst performers

* Disney shares up after results

* Bull market running out of steam-analyst

* Indexes: Dow off 0.1 pct; S&P flat; Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed in late morning trading on Wednesday as investors awaited fresh trading incentives after recent rallies took the S&P 500 to five-year highs.

Transportation stocks were among the worst performers, weighed down by a 10-percent drop in CH Robinson Worldwide to $60.49 after it reported fourth-quarter earnings.

The Dow Jones Transportation index shed 0.5 percent after closing at a record high Tuesday for a gain of more than 10 percent in 2013.

A 6-percent advance this year so far has lifted the benchmark S&P 500 index to its highest since December 2007, while the Dow briefly climbed above 14,000 recently, making it a challenge for investors to continue pushing the equity market upward in the absence of strong catalysts.

"Overall, we believe that the next near-term market dip should provide an opportunity to buy stocks ahead of rallies higher in the coming months, but we are skeptical about the long-term sustainability of these gains due to the maturing age of the bull market," said Ari Wald, equity research analyst at C&Co\PrinceRidge in New York.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index was supported by Apple Inc , which rose 1.2 percent to $463.62.

Walt Disney Co was among the bright spots, up 0.9 percent at $54.77, after the company beat estimates for quarterly adjusted earnings and gave an optimistic outlook for the next few quarters.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning, of 301 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 68.1 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters. In terms of revenue, 65.8 percent of companies have topped forecasts.

Looking ahead, fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 4.7 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 11.25 points, or 0.08 percent, at 13,968.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.05 points, or 0.00 percent, at 1,511.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 2.69 points, or 0.08 percent, at 3,174.27.

The benchmark S&P index rose 1.04 percent Tuesday, its biggest percentage gain since a 2.5-percent advance on Jan. 2, when legislators sidestepped a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes that could have hurt a fragile U.S. economic recovery.

Ralph Lauren Corp climbed 7.1 percent to $176.57 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after reporting renewed momentum in its holiday-quarter sales and profits.

Time Warner Inc jumped 4.1 percent to $51.99 after reporting higher fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates, as growth in its cable networks offset declines in its film, TV entertainment and publishing units.

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