* S&P 500 down 5.1 percent over the last six sessions
* Wal-Mart falls after results, Target edges higher
* Jobless claims spike, investors see impact of storm
* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq flat
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 15 U.S. stocks were little changed
in choppy trading on Thursday as investors found little reason
to buy following weak results from Wal-Mart Stores Inc and
rising tensions in the Middle East.
After stock index futures rose before the market opened,
Wall Street dipped temporarily soon after the open on data from
the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank that showed business
activity in mid-Atlantic states unexpectedly contracted.
The recent trend has been for stocks to struggle to hold
onto even slight gains, as on Wednesday when they opened higher
but slumped at midday and ended down more than 1 percent.
"There's nothing that suggests the economy is poised to
free-fall or rally, and with all the uncertainty out there
people are choosing to just take their 2012 gains now rather
than December," said John Norris, managing director of wealth
management with Oakworth Capital Bank in Birmingham, Alabama.
Stil, the S&P 500 is up 8.2 percent so far this year, though
at its 2012 peak the benchmark index was up more than 17
Wal-Mart fell 3.8 percent to $68.60 after reporting
third-quarter revenue that missed expectations. The company said
economic conditions pressured customers' spending. Target Corp
rose 1.1 percent to $62.08 after it reported a profit
that beat expectations.
Weekly jobless claims spiked in the latest week, hurt by the
impact of superstorm Sandy, though consumer prices came in as
expected with a 0.1 percent increase. Claims totaled 439,000,
over expectations of 375,000.
The Philly Fed said its business activity index slumped to
-10.7 from 5.7 the month before, a much steeper fall than had
been expected. The data was affected by disruption from
superstorm Sandy, which slammed the U.S. Northeast in late
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.56 points,
or 0.09 percent, at 12,582.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 1.88 points, or 0.14 percent, at 1,357.37. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.97 point, or 0.03
percent, at 2,845.84.
Both the Dow and Nasdaq ended at their lowest levels since
late June on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 is down about 5
percent since election night. Wednesday marked the benchmark
index's lowest close since July 25.
Investors may seek bargains at these levels, but many
analysts say strong gains may be hard to come by until at least
one of several global macroeconomic headwinds go away.
NetApp Inc surged 9.7 percent to $29.81 a day after
reporting adjusted second-quarter earnings that beat
expectations and forecasting a strong current quarter.
Overseas, Israel launched a major offensive against
Palestinian militants in Gaza, killing the military commander of
Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the
enclave. Egypt said it recalled its ambassador from Israel in
Energy shares may be affected by the tensions in the Middle
East, as any disruption in crude supplies could spark a jump in
oil prices. Brent crude rose 1 percent while oilfield
services company Halliburton Co rose 1.6 percent to
President Barack Obama Wednesday reiterated his position
that marginal tax rates would have to rise to tackle U.S.
deficits. Taxes on capital gains and dividends could rise as
part of the negotiations, pushing investors to sell this year
and pay lower taxes on their gains.
A regional gauge of manufacturing in New York state slowed
for a fourth straight month in November but was stronger than