* Facebook unveils "graph search"
* Debt ceiling debate, earnings worries hurt sentiment
* Retailers advance after December sales data
* Indexes down: Dow 0.01 pct, S&P 0.03 pct, Nasdaq 0.20 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks pared losses and
pulled near the unchanged mark on Tuesday as tech heavyweight
Apple came off earlier lows and economic data helped retailers
Apple fell for the third day in a row as the
biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 after
reports on Monday of cuts to orders for iPhone parts. Shares
were down nearly 2.5 percent at $489.11, rebounding somewhat
from a session low of $483.84, its lowest level since February.
Retailer stocks advanced and helped to minimize the market's
decline after a government report that retail sales rose more
than expected in December was seen as a favorable sign for
fourth-quarter growth. However, a separate report showed
manufacturing activity in New York state contracted for the
sixth month in a row in January.
"It's trying to push its way up in here, the question is,
has Apple stabilized maybe a little bit down here? The retail
sales numbers were really good, much better than expected this
morning and that is helping the whole retail group," said Paul
Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial
Services in Charlotte, Vermont.
"The bulls are clearly trying to take control of this market
and hold it up here. There is clearly buying on any of the
American Eagle Outfitters Inc gained 4 percent to
$20.43 and Gap Inc rose 3 percent to $32.32. The Morgan
Stanley retail index climbed 1.2 percent.
Investors also continue to eye the looming debt ceiling
debate. On Monday, President Barack Obama rejected any
negotiations with Republicans over raising the U.S. debt
ceiling. The United States could default on its debt if Congress
does not increase the borrowing limit.
Resolving the debt ceiling debate is more a question of how
than if. Investors don't expect a U.S. default, but they are
also wary of another eleventh-hour agreement like the one in
The Dow Jones industrial average shed 1.42 points, or
0.01 percent, to 13,505.90. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
dipped 0.46 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,470.22. The
Nasdaq Composite Index lost 6.30 points, or 0.20
percent, to 3,111.20.
An expected lackluster earnings season also kept investors
from taking aggressive bets. Analyst estimates for the quarter
have fallen sharply since October. S&P 500 earnings growth is
now seen up just 1.8 percent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters
Homebuilder Lennar reported a sharp rise in
quarterly profit, but the stock fell 2.1 percent to $40.16 on
worries that growth in orders was slowing. The PHLX housing
sector index declined 0.3 percent.
Express Inc surged 22.5 percent to $17.22 as the
biggest percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange after
the apparel retailer raised its fourth-quarter and full year
Dell Inc shares added to earlier gains, up 5
percent to $12.91 after sources said talks to take the computer
maker private are in an advanced stage.
Facebook declined 1 percent to $30.66 after the
company unveiled a "graph search" feature that CEO Mark
Zuckerberg said would help its billion-plus users sort through
content within the social network and its content feeds.