* Facebook slumps in premarket after earnings
* Jobless claims up, Chicago PMI tops expectations
* Indexes up: Dow 0.16 pct, S&P 0.01 pct, Nasdaq 0.27 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 31 U.S. stocks were little changed
on Thursday as investors mulled a mixed bag of economic data,
though earnings from Qualcomm helped lift the Nasdaq.
Data showed the labor market improved modestly; the number
of Americans filing new claims last week for unemployment
benefits rose, beating expectations and bouncing off five-year
lows in the prior week.
That comes ahead of Friday's payrolls report, which is
expected to show employers added 160,000 jobs in January after
an increase of 155,000 in December.
A separate report showed incomes climbed in December by the
most in eight years, in an encouraging sign that the economy may
be propelled forward through consumer spending.
A gauge of business activity in the U.S. Midwest showed a
pick up in January from a more than three-year low in December
as new orders jumped. The report followed a disappointing survey
from the mid-Atlantic and New York regions.
Qualcomm Inc gained 5.9 percent to $67.25 as the
top boost to the Nasdaq 100 after the world's leading
supplier of chips for cellphones beat analysts' expectations for
quarterly profit and revenue, and raised its targets for the
The worst performer on the Nasdaq was Facebook Inc,
which lost 5.9 percent to $29.39. The social network company
said Wednesday it doubled its mobile advertising revenue in the
fourth quarter; however, that growth trailed some of Wall
Street's most aggressive estimates.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 22.88 points,
or 0.16 percent, to 13,933.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
gained 0.21 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,502.17. The
Nasdaq Composite Index gained 8.43 points, or 0.27
percent, to 3,150.73.
The S&P 500 has gained 5.3 percent in January, after
legislators in Washington temporarily sidestepped a "fiscal
cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could
have derailed the economic recovery, and amid improving economic
data and better-than-expected corporate earnings.
But the benchmark index has stalled recently and is
virtually flat for the week, hovering near the 1,500 mark, as
investors look for fresh trading incentives to justify further
"Unfortunately it's still a mixed picture, it appears we are
just getting a lot of conflicting data right now," said Jack
Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
"There is certainly a lot of information coming out this
week - a lot of economic data, a lot of earnings and of course
we have the employment number looming Friday, so with 1,500
right here, my guess is there is just not enough conviction to
push us substantially higher yet."
United Parcel Service Inc lost 1.6 percent to $79.95
after the world's largest parcel delivery reported
fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates on Thursday
and forecast weaker-than-expected profit for 2013.
But the Dow Jones Transportation average gained 0.5
percent as Kirby Corp added 7.6 percent to $71.57 and
Ryder Systems Inc climbed 4.7 percent to $56.79 after
posting quarterly results.
Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning shows that of
the 231 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings
this season, 69.3 percent have exceeded expectations, a higher
proportion than over the past four quarters and above the
average since 1994.
Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are forecast to
have risen 3.7 percent. That's above a 1.9 percent forecast at
the start of the earnings season, but well below a 9.9 percent
profit growth forecast on Oct. 1, the data showed.
WMS Industries Inc surged 52.5 percent to $24.96
after the company agreed to be acquired by Scientific Games Corp
for $26 per share in cash. Scientific Games jumped 19
percent to $10.63.