- The S&P 500
effectively finished unchanged at 1,845.16, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.13% to close at 16,200.34. The Nasdaq was up 0.1% to 4,292.06.
- New home sales increased 9.6% to a higher-than-expected seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 in January, from an upwardly revised 427,000 in December. The January reading was the highest since July 2008.
- Retailers dominated gains in afternoon trading. Target (TGT) shares rose 7% after it posted fourth-quarter earnings of 81 cents a share against estimates of 79 cents, signaling the regaining of customer loyalty after a data breach affected tens of millions of shoppers at the peak of the holiday season. Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) increased 11.3% after posting fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates and saying it would buy back $150 million in shares in the current quarter. Wal-Mart added 2% after saying its Mexican unit would return 22 billion Mexican pesos ($1.66 billion) to shareholders via dividends and share repurchases in 2014. Lowe's was 5.4% higher after reporting a 5.6% increase in sales to $11.66 billion in the fourth quarter.
- In other stock news, LinkedIn (LNKD) was up 1.3% after the stock was raised to an "outperform" rating from "sector perform" by RBC Capital and the company launched a Chinese language site. Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) increased 1.6% after posting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.46 a share compared with the average analyst estimate of $1.32. Dreamworks Animation (DWA) plunged 12.2% after being downgraded by Piper Jaffray to "underweight" from "neutral" as its fourth-quarter results fell short of Wall Street estimates.
- European markets were mostly lower amid tepid earnings reports. Germany's DAX was off 0.39% while the FTSE was down 0.46% after data showed U.K. GDP rose 0.7% in the fourth quarter, in line with expectations. The economy expanded by 1.8% over the year down from a previously estimated 1.9%. In Asia, the Nikkei closed 0.54% lower while the Hang Seng was 0.54% higher.
-- By Andrea Tse, Jane Searle and Joe Deaux in New York