US stocks flat as retail equities drop

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished little changed Wednesday in choppy trade following a lacklustre US retail sales report and disappointing earnings from Macy's.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 7.74 points (0.04 per cent) to 18,060.49.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.64 (0.03 per cent) to 2,098.48, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 5.50 (0.11 per cent) to 4,981.69.

US retail and food services sales totalled US$436.8 billion (S$578 billion) in April, essentially unchanged from March, according to Commerce Department data.

Macy's, one of the first prominent retailers to report earnings, fell 2.5 per cent after announcing first-quarter results that missed market expectations.

The company blamed the West Coast port slowdown and severe winter weather early in the quarter for sales that came in lower than it had forecast.

Other retailers dropped, including Dow member Wal-Mart Stores (-1.0 per cent), Target (-1.2 per cent) and Best Buy (-1.6 per cent).

Dow member DuPont dived 6.8 per cent after a shareholder vote defeated an attempt to shake up the chemicals giant by activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management. Shareholders rejected all four Trian board nominees, including Peltz.

Water-filtration company Pall rose 4.4 per cent on news it will be acquired by industrial company Danahar for US$13.8 billion. Pall had risen 19.4 per cent on Tuesday on reports of a pending acquisition deal.

Danaher also announced it would split into two independent companies: a science and technology growth company including Pall and NewCo, and a diversified industrial growth company. It advanced 1.6 per cent.

Facebook rose 1.3 per cent as it unveiled a long-anticipated deal with news publishers which allows the social network to deliver articles directly to readers. Partners in the Launch include The New York Times, NBC, BBC News and Spiegel.

Pipeline and midstream petroleum company Williams announced it would acquire the remaining shares of Williams Partners for US$13.8 billion, lifting its stake in the master limited partnership from 60 per cent. Williams also announced it was hiking its dividend by 33 per cent. Williams Partners rose 22.7 per cent, while Williams gained 6.2 per cent.

Delta Air Lines added 1.5 per cent after announcing a 50 per cent dividend increase and a US$5 billion share repurchase programme.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.29 per cent from 2.25 per cent Tuesday, while the 30-year advanced to 3.08 per cent from 3.02 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.