Wall Street stymied as investors lack catalysts to trade

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By Angela Moon | February 7, 2013 5:14 AM EST

U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday as investors, without any major economic reports to guide them, awaited fresh incentives to trade after rallies took the S&P 500 to five-year highs.

Transportation stocks were among the worst performers, weighed down by a 10 percent drop in CH Robinson Worldwide to $60.40 after the freight transport company posted a lower-than-expected adjusted quarterly profit.

The Dow Jones Transportation index <.DJT> shed 0.3 percent after closing at a record high Tuesday for a gain of more than 10 percent in 2013.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has advanced 6 percent this year, climbing to its highest since December 2007. The Dow industrials <.DJI> have risen above 14,000 recently, making it a challenge for investors to push stocks higher in the absence of strong positive catalysts.

"Overall, we believe that the next near-term market dip should provide an opportunity to buy stocks ahead of rallies higher in the coming months, but we are skeptical about the long-term sustainability of these gains due to the maturing age of the bull market," said Ari Wald, equity research analyst at C&CoPrinceRidge in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 5.28 points, or 0.04 percent, at 13,984.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.56 point, or 0.04 percent, at 1,511.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 1.67 points, or 0.05 percent, at 3,173.25.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index was supported by Apple Inc , which rose 1.1 percent to $462.62.

Walt Disney Co was among the bright spots, up 1.1 percent at $60.31, after the company beat estimates for quarterly adjusted earnings and gave an optimistic outlook for the next few quarters.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning, of 301 companies in the S&P 500 <.SPX> that have reported earnings, 68.1 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters. In terms of revenue, 65.8 percent of companies have topped forecasts.

Looking ahead, fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 4.7 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

The benchmark S&P index rose 1.04 percent Tuesday, its biggest percentage gain since a 2.5-percent advance on January 2 after lawmakers agreed on a temporary delay of the "fiscal cliff."

Ralph Lauren Corp climbed 8 percent to $178.15 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after reporting renewed momentum in its holiday-quarter sales and profits.

Time Warner Inc jumped 4.4 percent to $52.15 after reporting higher fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates, as growth in its cable networks offset declines in its film, TV entertainment and publishing units.

Visa , the world's largest credit and debit card network, is expected to report earnings per share of $1.79 for its first quarter, up from $1.49 a year earlier. Smaller rival MasterCard MA.N recently reported better-than-expected results but said its revenue growth could slow in the first half of the year due to economic uncertainty.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Kenneth Barry)

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