* Sony jumps after hedge fund chief favors spinning off entertainment unit
* Electric carmaker Tesla Motors extends gains on raised sales outlook
* U.S. shares of Nokia drop after unveiling new phone
* Indexes up: Dow 0.17 pct, S&P 0.30 pct, Nasdaq 0.24 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, May 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose modestly on Tuesday as investors adapt to the economy's slow growth, speculating that it should sustain the market's upward trend after the Dow and S&P 500 hit a succession of record highs.
The market has been trading sideways for three sessions, showing a gain of 0.07 percent as the winding down of the quarterly earnings season and a light economic calendar have left investors without a strong catalyst for further gains.
Still, the S&P is up more than 14 percent so far this year, propelled by some earnings that beat lowered estimates and the Federal Reserve's easy monetary policy designed to stimulate the economy.
While some analysts argue the long-term trend remains positive, many see momentum waning in the near term in the absence of positive catalysts. Volume has been lighter than average, and volatility has been low in recent days.
"Earnings season is pretty well done, we don't really have any big economic points on the horizon," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
"We've finally settled in. People realize the world is not melting down. Growth isn't surging either, but it's growth and the market is adapting to that."
Wall Street ended little changed on Monday as investors paused following three weeks of gains, though strong retail sales data helped to limit losses.
With the S&P 500 at record highs, investors are questioning whether current levels are justified, given the massive stimulus by the Fed and the possibility that improvement in economic data could cause the U.S. central bank to begin curbing its easy money policy.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 25.04 points, or 0.17 percent, to 15,116.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 4.83 points, or 0.30 percent, to 1,638.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 8.23 points, or 0.24 percent, to 3,447.02.
Economic data showed import prices slipped 0.5 percent last month due to a drop in oil costs, the biggest decline since December and matching Wall Street expectations.
U.S.-listed shares of Sony Corp jumped 9 percent to $20.61 percent after billionaire hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb called on the company to spin off its lucrative entertainment arm.
Nokia Corp unveiled a new version of its Lumia smartphone line, but U.S.-listed shares fell 6 percent to $3.61. Research company Gartner said Nokia lost 5 percentage points of market share in the first quarter, falling to 14.8 percent.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Monday that an Indiana farmer had violated Monsanto Co's patent for a type of soybean. Shares in the agribusiness company inched up 0.07 percent to $106.91.
Tesla Motors extended its meteoric rise following a gain of 40 percent last week after lifting its sales outlook. It climbed 5 percent to $92.15.
Agilent Technologies Inc is the only S&P 500 company scheduled to report results on Tuesday.
Most corporate earnings have been better than expected this quarter. With 90 percent of the S&P having reported, 67.2 percent have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, which is even with the average over the past four quarters.
However, only 46.9 percent have beaten revenue expectations, below the 52 percent average over the past four quarters.