U.S. stocks little changed amid retail sales, German confidence

U.S. stocks were little changed, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index recorded two days of losses, as retail sales rose for a fourth month in July and a gauge of German investor confidence advanced.

Apple Inc. gained 1.1% after a person familiar with the matter said it will introduce a new iPhone next month. Marvell Technology Group Ltd. climbed 3.3% after RBC Capital Markets raised its recommendation on the shares. Yum! Brands Inc. slid 2.4% after reporting that sales in China fell last month.

The S&P 500 added 0.1% to 1,690.34 at 9:51 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.45 points, or less than 0.1%, to 15,417.23. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 15% below the 30-day average during this time of day.

“The signs seem to be it’s getting better, but not strongly better,” Bill Schultz, chief investment officer who oversees about $1.1 billion at McQueen Ball & Associates in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said by phone. “We probably need another leg to build on to before this market can get higher. We need evidence of that and this retail sales number doesn’t give you that feeling that things really turned robustly higher.”

The S&P 500 declined 0.1 yesterday, its fifth drop in the past six days after closing at a record on Aug. 2, amid growing speculation the Federal Reserve will pare bond purchases this year as the economy strengthens. Fed officials have been scrutinizing data to determine whether growth is strong enough to curtail stimulus.

Retail Sales

Data today showed retail sales rose 0.2% in July, following a 0.6% gain in June that was larger than previously reported, according to Commerce Department figures. The median forecast of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.3% advance.

Fed Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart will give a speech at 12:45 p.m. on the outlook for the U.S. economy. Lockhart said in an interview with Market News International on Aug. 7 that the Fed may reduce its bond purchases as early as September.

“The progress to date is pretty impressive and certainly should be factored into the readiness of the economy to move forward without asset purchases,” he said in the article.

In Europe, shares climbed to the highest level since May after an index of German investor and analyst expectations rose more than estimated in August. Germany is Europe’s largest economy.

Better-than-estimated corporate earnings have also helped U.S. equities rally, with the S&P 500 surging more than 150% from its bear-market low in 2009. Of the 448 companies in the benchmark index that have reported quarterly results this period, 72% have exceeded analysts’ profit estimates, with earnings rising 2.8%, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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