By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks edged higher on Friday, with the S&P 500 within grasp of record levels in the wake of strong results at Priceline, though investors found little reason to push shares solidly higher following a recent rally.
Traders continued to watch the political situation in Ukraine, with EU mediators expecting an agreement between Ukraine's pro-European opposition & Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, though the former was seeking last-minute changes to the deal.
p> Geopolitical concerns may take on a bigger role next week, when there will be few U.S. earnings & data releases to otherwise drive trading.
A report showed existing home sales fell more than expected to an 18-month low in January, the latest metric to indicate softness, though many analysts pin the weakness to weather instead of worsening fundamentals.
"We think the market is fairly valued, & there's reluctance to obtain excited at these levels, even though stocks remain the best bet on a long-term basis," said Malcolm Polley, president & chief investment officer of Stewart Capital Advisors in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Priceline.com Inc jumped 3.2 percent as one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers, rising to $1,324.08 a day after reporting results that beat expectations.
Hewlett Packard Co moreover reported results that topped expectations, & the computer maker moreover raised its 2014 profit view, though shares dipped 1.3 percent to $29.79.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 33.06 points, or 0.20 percent, at 16,166.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 3.83 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,843.61. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 10.70 points, or 0.25 percent, at 4,278.24.
For the week, the Dow is up less than 0.1 percent, the S&P 500 is up 0.3 percent & the Nasdaq is up 0.8 percent. All three indexes are gunning for a third week of advances, & the S&P is 0.2 percent away from an all-time high of 1,848.38 reached January 15.
In company news, Groupon Inc slumped 16 percent to $8.62 a day after unexpectedly forecasting a quarterly loss, even as it reported revenue that was ahead of expectations.
Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co late Thursday forecast 2014 earnings in line with Wall Street expectations & said it expects long-term earnings growth of up to 20 percent per year. Shares fell 3.9 percent to $74.10.
Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk told Bloomberg TV that the company has had "conversations" with Apple Inc , responding to speculation that the iPhone & iPad maker had shown interest in the electric car company. Musk declined to describe the talks, though he said it was "very unlikely" that Tesla would be bought by any company. Shares were up 0.7 percent at $211.45.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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