US STOCKS-Wall St flat after Greek delay in thin holiday trade

Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:10pm GMT

Quotes

   

* Lenders fail to reach deal for Greece

* Investors remain wary of fiscal cliff impact

* Volume expected to be light ahead of Thursday's holiday

* Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P off 0.03 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday as a lack of progress on some of the potential pitfalls facing the market kept investors cautious.

Greece's international lenders failed again to reach a deal to release emergency aid to the debt-saddled country. Lenders will try again next Monday, but Germany signalled that significant divisions remain.

Investors also remained anxious about the tax and spending changes that are poised to come into effect in the new year - known as the "fiscal cliff" - though policymakers are not expected to get back to negotiations until after Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.

Trading volume was expected to be light ahead of Thursday's market holiday, which could keep action muted. The stock market also will close early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday.

Fears that the fiscal cliff discusions in Washington could be drawn out or yield no resolution have been at the forefront of investors' minds in recent weeks. Combined with concerns over the euro zone's continued debt problems, the worries had taken more than 5 percent off the S&P 500 since Election Day in early November.

Positive comments from U.S. politicians that they will work to find common ground have helped the index recoup some of that loss in recent sessions.

"I think the focus is heavy on what are we doing about fiscal cliff," said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"Are these guys talking? Are there going to be substantive decisions made?"

St Jude Medical lost more than 12 percent after Wells Fargo cut its rating to "market perform", saying an FDA inspection report cited serious flaws in the company's design verification and validation methods for its Durata line of heart devices. The stock was recently at $31.07.

A small gain in International Business Machines helped the Dow outperform the other indexes. IBM was up 0.7 percent at $190.51.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 25.11 points, or 0.20 percent, to 12,813.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was off 0.39 point, or 0.03 percent, to 1,387.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 2.03 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,918.72.

Salesforce.com Inc jumped 8 percent to $157.57 after the business software provider beat Wall Street expectations for the third quarter and maintained its outlook for the rest of the year.

But Deere & Co dragged on the S&P after the world's largest farm equipment maker reported a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit. Its stock lost 4.3 percent to $82.28.

The market did not derive much direction from the day's economic data with initial jobless claims falling last week as expected.

Other data showed manufacturing picked up at its quickest pace in five months in November, while consumer sentiment improved only slightly.

The focus will likely turn to retailers on Friday as analysts try to assess how strong the holiday shopping season will be this year, Brunner said. Holiday shopping traditionally kicks off the day after Thanksgiving as stores offer deals and discounts to lure consumers.