* Facebook shares fall after earnings, Qualcomm up
* S&P on track to close best month since Oct 2011
* Dow off 0.25 pct, S&P down 0.27 pct, Nasdaq off 0.06 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Jan 31 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Thursday as investors took profit after a mixed bag of economic
data, while stellar earnings from Qualcomm helped buoy the
Even with the retreat, the S&P 500 is on track to post its
best month since October 2011 and its best start to a year since
Investors are expecting a pullback in equities after recent
gains, though they have bought on dips over the past four weeks,
analysts said. The largest daily decline on the S&P 500 so far
in 2013 was Thursday's 0.39 percent drop, after data showed the
economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012.
"This is a highly rotational market," said Janelle Nelson,
portfolio analyst at RBC Wealth Management in Minneapolis,
noting how investors dive into beaten-down sectors on the
smallest encouraging news.
Job market data released earlier on Thursday showed mildly
positive signs for a still-fragile economy, with jobless claims
slightly higher and incomes growing at the best pace since 2004.
Those reports come 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. Friday will also bring
reports on consumer confidence, U.S. manufacturing, construction
spending and car sales.
"The market's lack of movement is due in part to the large
number of economic releases coming out tomorrow," said Nelson.
Qualcomm Inc gained 4.6 percent to $66.43 as the
top boost to the Nasdaq Composite after the world's leading
supplier of chips for cellphones beat analysts' expectations for
quarterly profit and revenue, and raised its targets for the
Facebook Inc lost 2.5 percent to $30.47, a day after
the social network company said it doubled its mobile
advertising revenue in the fourth quarter. However, growth
trailed some of Wall Street's most aggressive estimates.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 34.71 points or
0.25 percent, to 13,875.71; the S&P 500 lost 4.04 points
or 0.27 percent, to 1,497.92 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 1.74 points or 0.06 percent, to 3,140.57.
The S&P 500 has advanced 5 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 in the wake of
better-than-expected corporate earnings.
United Parcel Service Inc lost 2 percent to $79.63
after reporting fourth-quarter earnings that were below
analysts' estimates on Thursday and forecasting
weaker-than-expected profit for 2013.
Kirby Corp added 6.6 percent to $70.87 and Ryder
Systems Inc climbed 2.9 percent to $55.81 after posting
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 52.6 percent to $24.98
after the company agreed to be acquired by Scientific Games Corp
for $26 per share in cash. Scientific Games jumped 11.9
percent to $9.99.