Wall Street little changed with record high in sight

Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Friday, with the S&P 500 facing resistance as it flirts with its record high, as company news dominated trading amid another soft reading on the economy.

Home resales in the United States fell more than expected in January and hit an 18 month-low as the combination of cold weather and a lack of housing stock sidelined potential buyers.

Traders continue to selectively dismiss weak economic data which is being blamed on the extreme weather that has affected large swaths of the U.S. territory.

An index of homebuilder stocks rose 1 percent and could close at its highest since mid 2007.

Giving support to equities, data showed fund investors worldwide poured a net $8.3 billion into funds that specialize in U.S. equities in the week ending February 19. Inflows into global stock funds were $13.4 billion, the biggest in 12 weeks.

"You have very strong momentum and there's cash on the sidelines," said Kevin Caron, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.

He said softer data is being dismissed because of the weather and, with the U.S. 10-year note yielding less than 3 percent, "equities are one of the few games in town."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.62 points or 0.07 percent, to 16,122.61, the S&P 500 gained 0.23 points or 0.01 percent, to 1,840.01 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.756 points or 0.04 percent, to 4,269.301.

All three indexes are gunning for a third week of advances, and the S&P is within striking distance of its record close of 1,848.38 reached January 15.

Shares of Isis Pharmaceuticals rose 13.6 percent to $58 after the company said a mid-stage trial of its experimental treatment for a rare spinal disorder showed that it increased muscle function in children. Shares of Biogen , Isis' partner in the drug's development, hit a record high on the news.

Priceline.com rose 3 percent as one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers, rising to $1,321.79 a day after reporting results that beat expectations.

Hewlett Packard Co also reported results that topped expectations, and the computer maker also raised its 2014 profit view, though shares dipped 1.7 percent to $29.67.

Investment firm G Asset Management said it had offered to take a 51 percent stake in either Barnes & Noble Inc or in the bookseller's Nook digital books and device business. Barnes and Noble shares rose 5.8 percent to $17.76.

Groupon shares tumbled 20.1 percent to $8.13 a day after unexpectedly forecasting a quarterly loss, even as it reported revenue that was ahead of expectations.

Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co late Thursday forecast 2014 earnings in line with Wall Street expectations and said it expects long-term earnings growth of up to 20 percent per year. Shares fell 4.3 percent to $73.82.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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