* Facebook shares pare losses, Qualcomm up
* S&P on track to close best month since Oct 2011
* Constellation brands shares tumble on DOJ action
* Indexes: Dow off 0.1 pct; S&P flat; Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 31 U.S. stocks were little changed
on Thursday as investors were cautious after a mixed bag of
economic data, while stellar earnings from chipmaker Qualcomm
helped the Nasdaq index to edge higher.
The S&P 500 is on track to post its best month since October
2011 and its best January since 1997.
Investors expect a pullback in equities after the recent
gains, though they have bought on dips over the past four weeks.
The largest daily decline on the S&P 500 so far in 2013 was
Wednesday's 0.39 percent drop after data showed the economy
contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012.
On Friday, the government is due to release figures on
January's non-farm payrolls, which are expected to show
employers added 160,000 jobs in January after a rise of 155,000
"It's the calm before the potential storm. The uncertainty
about tomorrow's numbers comes from that fact that we had a
decent ADP report but the weekly claims were not so great," said
Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and
derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
"We could see an overly sensitive market to a bad number
tomorrow, given that we've been up without a major correction,
and that makes the market sensitive to the downside."
Data on Thursday showed a slight rise in weekly jobless
claims and incomes growing at the best pace since 2004,
underscoring how fragile the economic recovery still was.
Friday will also bring reports on consumer confidence, U.S.
manufacturing, construction spending and car sales.
Qualcomm gained 4.4 percent to $66.32 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 shares fell 0.8 percent to $31.01 after
falling as low as $28.74 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
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 7.50
points, or 0.05 percent, at 13,902.92. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 0.36 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,502.32.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.99 points, or 0.22
percent, at 3,149.29.
The S&P 500 has advanced more than 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 recovery. Better-than-expected corporate
earnings have added to the gains.
It would be the benchmark's largest monthly advance since a
more than 6 percent gain in October 2011 and the best January
advance since a 6.1 percent jump in 1997.
UPS shares lost 2.1 percent to $79.50 after
reporting fourth-quarter earnings that were below analysts'
estimates on Thursday and forecasting weaker-than-expected
profit for 2013.
Constellation Brands shares tumbled 16.4 percent to
$32.72 after the U.S. Justice Department moved to stop
Anheuser-Busch InBev from buying the half of Mexican
brewer Grupo Modelo that it does not already own.
Constellation would have distributed Corona beer in the United
States if the transaction had been approved.
Tank barge operator Kirby Corp added 6.3 percent to
$70.67 and transportation company Ryder Systems climbed
4.8 percent to $56.84 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.
Slot machine maker WMS Industries surged 51.7
percent to $24.84 after the company agreed to be acquired by
Scientific Games for $26 per share in cash. Scientific
Games jumped 5 percent to $9.38.