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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors found few reasons to push the S&P 500 above its recent record high, as tensions in Ukraine continued.
Despite setting a record high on March 7, the S&P 500 has been range-bound over the last few sessions, amid a dearth of corporate earnings or data-related incentives to push equities higher.
"The market has growing pains here, and rightfully so," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"Basically we are at high levels, there are a lot of warnings out there, a lot of signs the market may be topping out."
Investors were also wary in light of events in Ukraine. A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing.
On Tuesday, ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich insisted he remained Ukraine's legitimate president and commander-in-chief, saying he would return to Kiev and appealing to the armed forces to defy any "criminal orders" handed down by his foes.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 15.42 points, or 0.09 percent, to 16,434.1, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 1.91 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,879.08 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 12.958 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,347.405.
U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.6 percent in January, more than the 0.4 percent expected, as companies built up stocks of autos and machinery, though sales posted their largest decline in nearly five years.
J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) jumped 8.3 percent to $9.12 after Citigroup raised the stock to a "buy" and boosted its price target to $11 per share.
Urban Outfitters Inc (URBN.O) dropped 5 percent to $35.63 as the worst performer on the S&P 500 after it reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales, citing winter weather, and said it was "very cautious" on its current-quarter performance.
The S&P retail index .SPXRT slipped 0.1 percent.
American Eagle Outfitters Inc (AEO.N) slumped 6 percent to $13.36 after the teen apparel retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings and forecast earnings for the current quarter that were short of expectations.
Dick's Sporting Goods Inc (DKS.N) advanced 2 percent to $55.40 after the company posted fourth-quarter earnings and gave its first-quarter outlook.
Myriad Genetics Inc (MYGN.O) lost 9.4 percent to $34.19 after the diagnostics company said a U.S. court denied a motion that would have stopped rival Ambry Genetics Corp from selling a similar version of Myriad's cancer test.
La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co LJPC.O surged 61 percent to $17.55 after the company said its lead experimental drug to treat chronic kidney disease met the main goal of improving kidney function in a mid-stage study.
Editing by Bernadette Baum