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Wall Street flat after best weekly gain of 2014

Wall Street flat after best weekly gain of 2014

WALL STREET: Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Feb. 18. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday after Wall Street’s biggest gain of the year as disappointing economic reports weighed on investor sentiment.

Data showed U.S. homebuilder confidence suffered its largest one-month drop ever in February, hit by this winter’s relentlessly severe weather and concerns about the costs of labor and building lots.

A separate report showed New York Federal Reserve’s gauge of manufacturing was weaker than expected in February after hitting a 20-month high in January.

But a bright spot came from the mergers and acquisitions field. Shares of Forest Laboratories Inc rocketed nearly 30 percent after Actavis said it would acquire the specialty pharmaceuticals company in a massive cash and stock deal valued at about $25 billion.

“Just the fact that acquisitions are being made shows that prices aren’t completely out of whack. That’s supportive to the market and it certainly shifts investors’ focus from profit taking,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Coca-Cola Co reported an 8.3 percent fall in quarterly earnings, hurt by the separation of its bottling operations in Brazil and the Philippines. The stock was down 3.9 percent at $37.40, weighing on the Dow index.

Tesla Motors Inc shares hit an all-time high following a report Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief, Adrian Perica, met Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last year, sparking speculation that Apple could be interested in buying the electric sports car maker.

Tesla shares rose 2.9 percent to $203.97 after hitting an all-time intraday high of $205.50 shortly after the open. Apple shares were up 1.2 percent at $550.37.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 2.99 points or 0.02 percent, to 16,151.4, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 1.9 points or 0.1 percent, to 1,840.53 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 20.768 points or 0.49 percent, to 4,264.793.

Soros Fund Management, one of the hedge fund industry’s most closely watched investors, trimmed its stakes in J.C. Penney and Herbalife late last year, marking a notable shift in course only months after buying into the companies.

J.C. Penney shares fell 0.7 percent to $6.10 while Herbalife shares gained 1.1 percent to $67.12.

Shares of BlackBerry Ltd jumped 6 percent to $9.52. Dan Loeb’s Third Point LLC Hedge fund disclosed a 10-million-share stake in the Canadian telecommunication and wireless equipment company.

Mobile game maker King Digital Entertainment PLC, best known for the hit puzzle Candy Crush Saga, said it planned to raise up to $500 million in an initial public offering.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday, with major indexes notching a second straight week of gains as investors shrugged off some weak economic data that was attributed to bad weather. U.S. markets were closed Monday for Presidents Day.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

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