US STOCKS-Wall St flat but indexes near records; Apple aids Nasdaq

Last Updated: Mon, May 06, 2013 15:40 hrs

* Dow, S&P near all-time closing highs

* Bank of America, Apple rise; Humana jumps after upgrade

* Indexes: Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday, pausing after a rally that pushed the Dow and S&P 500 to record highs last week on improving earnings and reassuring signs about the economy.

Apple shares were among the top gainers, up 2 percent at $458.65 and giving the biggest boosts to the Nasdaq composite index and benchmark S&P.

Market watchers said there is more room for stocks to rise as investors use weakness in the market as an opportunity to add to positions.

"There were some negative sentiment heading into earnings and concerns about the spring slowdown or 'sell in May and go away,'" said Todd Salamone, director of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Also economic numbers were weak. We don't see that now. We've hit this sweet spot in economic data where numbers are better-than-expected. But on an absolute basis, they won't make the Fed unwind their support for stimulus."

Although weak economic data from the euro zone and China has caused concerns over the global growth outlook, Friday's stronger-than-expected U.S. payrolls report fueled the gains that took the indexes to record levels.

Equities have been strong so far this year, with the S&P 500 up more than 13 percent in 2013 on the back of strong corporate earnings and accommodating monetary policies that have kept interest rates low.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 26.54 points, or 0.18 percent, at 14,947.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.46 point, or 0.03 percent, at 1,614.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.21 points, or 0.18 percent, at 3,384.85.

A number of bellwether names rallied on Monday, with Bank of America Corp up 2.3 percent to $12.52 and Apple Inc up 1.7 percent to $457.58. Humana Inc jumped 3.4 percent to $76.45 as the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer. JPMorgan upgraded the stock to "overweight."

But Johnson & Johnson shares were down more than 1 percent at $84.79, weighing on the blue-chip Dow average.

BMC Software Inc agreed to be acquired by a private equity group led by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital Corp for about $6.9 billion. Shares were up 0.2 percent to $45.50.

Tyson Foods Inc reported a steep drop in its second-quarter earnings, hurt as customers switched to chicken from beef to save money. The stock dropped 4.3 percent to $23.86, the biggest percentage decliner on the S&P 500.

Of the 404 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 68.3 percent have beaten earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, though only 46.3 percent have reported revenue above expectations. Over the past four quarters, 67 percent of companies beat on earnings and 52 percent beat revenue estimates.

Warren Buffett said on Monday low interest rates have made bonds "terrible" investments, but stocks are "reasonably priced," and he continues to shy away from sectors such as media where he cannot predict which will thrive in the long run.

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