By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks barely budged on Wednesday as an absence of economic catalysts put technicals in focus and kept the S&P 500 near its newest intraday record.
The S&P 500 has gained for four straight sessions as investors' appetite for equities has been buoyed by supportive U.S. economic data recently and expectations of monetary easing by the European Central Bank, while the 10-year U.S. Treasury note's yield slipped below 2.44 percent, its lowest level since July.
"We made a pretty decisive move above 1,900" on the S&P 500, said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer of Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis.
"Economic momentum is clearly to the upside at the moment, the surprise index is up, and that's pretty powerful for stocks," he said, referring to Citi's Economic Surprise Index, which measures how well data performs relative to forecasts. "We've had a constant stream of better-than-expected data, and the bond market has remained supportive."
The drop in fixed-income yields could lift the prices of dividend-paying stocks. The S&P utilities index is up 0.4 percent.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average extended its run into record territory, hitting a lifetime intraday high of 8,096.09 after closing on Tuesday above 8,000 for the first time. When the transports sector does well, the trend signals an improved outlook for the U.S. economy and the stock market.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 18.19 points or 0.11 percent, to 16,657.31. The S&P 500 gained 1.06 points or 0.06 percent, to 1,912.97. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.63 points or 0.09 percent, to 4,233.44.
If the S&P 500 advances for a fifth straight day, this would be its second-longest run this year. The index hit 1,914.46, a fresh intraday record high, and remains in the 1,910 area seen as technical resistance. Support kicks in at 1,900 and then at the 14-day moving average, now near 1,889.
U.S.-traded shares of Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals fell 1.6 percent to $127.78 after the company raised the cash component of its offer for Botox maker Allergan, valuing the U.S. company at $49.44 billion. Allergan fell 4.5 percent to $157.66.
Shares of Toll Brothers, the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder, rose 2 percent to $36.36 after the company reported that its quarterly profit more than doubled as it sold more homes at higher prices.
Among retailers, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd climbed 1 percent to $96.67 following the company's quarterly earnings as sales of its handbags and watches surged in North America. But the company - founded by fashion designer Michael Kors - cautioned that it expected the cost of opening new stores in Europe to depress gross margins in the next few quarters.
In contrast, footwear retailer DSW lost more than a fourth of its market value after the company missed estimates on its results and outlooks. The stock sank 27.6 percent to $23.54.
(Additonal reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jan Paschal)
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