Wall Street flat after housing data; S&P near key level

Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:03am EST
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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were little changed on Wednesday as an encouraging U.S. housing report offset soft euro zone data, while the S&P 500 struggled to break through a high not seen since last May.

The benchmark S&P is up 8.3 percent for the year and more than 20 percent from October lows. But the index has been unable to convincingly pierce the 1,360 level, a high hit May 3 and a key resistance point that could spark further gains if broken.

U.S. home resales surged to a 1-1/2 year high in January and supply fell to its lowest in nearly seven years, the National Association of Realtors said, pointing to a nascent housing recovery.

European shares fell for a second straight session as recession concerns increased after data showed the euro zone's service sector unexpectedly shrank and amid residual worries about Greece despite its success in getting a bailout. The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares was down 0.8 percent.

"On the one hand Greece looks like maybe it is finally sort of taken care of temporarily, U.S. economic data has been pretty good, there hasn't been any real bad news out there, so there is no real motivation to sell," said Uri Landesman, president of investment firm Platinum Partners in New York.

"But on the other hand, everybody is kind of thinking '1,080 to 1,360 is a hell of a run.'"

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 15.48 points, or 0.12 percent, at 12,950.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX slipped 2.60 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,359.61. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was off 7.63 points, or 0.26 percent, at 2,940.94.

Dell Inc DELL.O slumped 6.1 percent to $17.10 and was one of the biggest drags on the S&P. The world's No. 3 personal computer maker forecast revenue below expectations late Tuesday. The NYSEArca computer hardware index .HWI lost 1 percent.   Continued...

Traders work at the Knight Capital kiosk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid