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US: Stocks end flat ahead of growth data


[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished little changed Thursday, pausing after two strong sessions ahead of Friday's update on first-quarter US economic growth.

Analysts said investors were cautious ahead of the GDP data, which could be revised higher from the initial 0.5 per cent growth rate, and a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that will be scrutinized for clues about the prospects for hiking interest rates.

"Right now we're kind of in no-man's-land, and the burden of proof is on the bulls to keep the market going from the last two days," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.1 per cent to 17,828.29.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed less than 0.1 per cent to 2,090.10, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.1 per cent to 4,901.77.

Big-box store Costco Wholesale advanced 3.6 per cent as net income for the quarter ending May 8 rose 5.6 per cent to US$545 million despite flat comparable store sales. Earnings bested analyst expectations.

China's leading online marketplace Alibaba rose 3.7 per cent, recovering part of the losses from Wednesday that came on news of a US investigation into its accounting.

Apparel company PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, advanced 4.3 per cent as it lifted its earnings forecast following a better-than-expected first quarter.

But it cautioned that global consumer spending remains "unpredictable" and that the US retail market is "increasingly volatile and promotional."

Discount retailer Dollar Tree surged 12.8 per cent on better-than-expected earnings and its statement that integration of the Family Dollar acquisition was on track.

Signet Jewelers slumped 10.6 per cent after it reported first-quarter sales of US$1.58 billion, short of the US$1.61 billion expected by analysts.