U.S. Stocks Little Changed on GDP, Jobless Claims

U.S. stocks were little changed, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose within a point of its record, as reports showed an increase in jobless claims and economic growth that slowed less than previously estimated.

Deckers Outdoor Corp. rallied 5.2 percent after Jefferies Group Inc. raised its price target. BlackBerry climbed 2.6 percent after reporting fourth-quarter results. Red Hat Inc. tumbled 1.4 percent as sales missed estimates. PVH Corp. retreated 3.6 percent after the apparel company forecast earnings will trail current analyst estimates.

The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,563.26 at 9:59 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 20.04 points, or 0.1 percent, to 14,546.20. Trading among S&P 500 shares was 27 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day.

“We’re literally a few weeks away from getting back to earnings season and I think that will certainly bring with it the potential to move into new highs,” Eric Wiegand, a New York-based senior fund manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $110 billion, said by telephone. “We certainly won’t be surprised to see a little bit of pause here and a reassessment, but if we’re able to see earnings exceed expectations that could certainly be the propellant.”

The S&P 500 rose at the start of trading to within a point of its record of 1,565.15 reached in October 2007. The S&P 500 has traded above 1,560 on eight days since March 14, only to fall short of the record each time. The Dow first surpassed its 2007 all-time high on March 5.

Bull Market

The bull market in equities entered its fifth year this month as the S&P 500 more than doubled from its bottom in 2009, driven by an unprecedented three rounds of bond purchases by the Federal Reserve. The S&P 500 is heading for a quarterly advance of 9.7 percent, its best performance in a year.

Gross domestic product rose at a 0.4 percent annual rate, up from a 0.1 percent prior estimate and following a 3.1 percent pace in the third quarter, revised Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey for the third estimate of fourth-quarter GDP called for a 0.5 percent increase. The slowdown was due to the biggest slump in military spending since 1972 and a reduction in the rate of inventory building.

Jobless Claims

First-time jobless claims rose by 16,000 to 357,000 in the week ended March 23, the highest level in more than a month, Labor Department data showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 340,000. The four-week average climbed from the lowest level in five years.

Business activity in the U.S. expanded in March at a slower pace than forecast. The MNI Chicago Report’s business barometer fell to 52.4 this month, the lowest level of the year, from 56.8 in February. A reading greater than 50 signals expansion. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 56.5.

Alcoa Inc. will unofficially kick off the reporting season when it posts first-quarter results on April 8. Of the S&P 500-listed companies that posted earnings for the latest period, 71 percent beat estimates, while 61 percent beat sales predictions, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In Italy, Pier Luigi Bersani will tell President Giorgio Napolitano today whether he has managed to form a broad coalition capable of surviving a confidence vote in the Parliament’s upper house. Parliament was deadlocked after last month’s elections when the Democratic Party, which Bersani leads, failed to obtain a majority in the Senate.

Cyprus’s banks opened for the first time in almost two weeks, with new rules curbing access to cash preventing an initial panic to withdraw deposits.

Deckers, BlackBerry

Deckers surged 5.2 percent to $55.25. Jefferies analyst Randal Konik raised his price target on the Ugg brand owner to $100 from a previous estimate of $65, noting the likelihood of sheepskin prices falling this year.

BlackBerry rose 2.6 percent to $14.95. The company, formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd., reported a surprise profit in the fourth quarter, helped by a cost-cutting program, even as its sales missed analyst projections.

Red Hat lost 1.4 percent to $49.25. The largest seller of Linux operating-system software reported fiscal fourth-quarter sales that missed estimates as some customers --concerned about sluggish economic growth -- put off purchases.

PVH retreated 3.6 percent to $108.68. The owner of the Tommy Hilfiger brand said earnings will be $7 a share for the year, less than the average analyst estimate of $7.41 a share.

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