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US: Wall St ends little changed though Nasdaq hits record high close

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[NEW YORK] The Dow and S&P 500 eased from record highs on Friday as tepid data dampened investor confidence in the economy's expansion, while the Nasdaq inched up to a second straight record high close.

Among the S&P 500's biggest drags was Dow Chemical, which fell 2.4 per cent to US$52.33, while DuPont declined 1.9 per cent to US$67.66, a day after European Union regulators opened a full investigation of their US$130 billion merger agreement.

The S&P materials index, down 1.2 per cent, led sector declines in the benchmark index.

Economic data showed US retail sales growth was unexpectedly flat in July as people cut back on buying clothes and other goods, while the producer price index fell 0.4 per cent in July, the biggest drop in nearly a year.

All three major US stock indexes ended at record highs on Thursday for the first time since 1999, extending a recent rally that has increased investor concern about pricey valuations.

"It's gotten to a level which I would call overvalued ... and maybe I can't call it a bubble yet but we're pretty close in my view," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC in Albany, New York, adding, "It's not as speculative as 1999."

In the dot-com bubble from about 1997 to 2000, investors saw a rapid rise in stocks, especially those related to the internet.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 37.05 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 18,576.47, and the S&P 500 lost 1.74 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 2,184.05, while the Nasdaq Composite added 4.50 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 5,232.90, a record high close.

For the week, the Dow rose 0.2 per cent, the S&P 500 edged up 0.1 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.2 per cent.

Giving the Nasdaq its biggest boost on Friday, shares of chipmaker Nvidia gained 5.6 per cent to US$63.04, a day after it reported its fastest quarterly sales growth in nearly five years.

Also among the day's bright spots, Nordstrom rose 8 per cent to US$51.38 after the department store chain operator reported better-than-expected comparable sales and quarterly profit.

JC Penney shares jumped 6.1 per cent to US$10.55, also following upbeat results. The S&P retail index rose 0.3 per cent.

Energy shares also gained, with the S&P energy index rising 0.7 per cent as oil prices settled more than 2 per cent higher.

Exxon Mobil rose 1.3 per cent to US$87.85 and gave the biggest boost to the Dow and S&P 500, while Chevron added 0.75 per cent to US$102.16.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.06-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.07-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 77 new highs and 31 new lows.

About 5.6 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, compared with the 6.4 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.