* Apple leads tech sector lower; S&P tech index off 1 pct
Among top decliners are stocks that gained most in 2013
* Indexes off: Dow 0.5 pct; S&P 0.6 pct; Nasdaq 0.6 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell Thursday on their first day of trading in 2014 as investors booked profit in the wake of the S&P 500's best yearly advance since 1997.
Shares of Apple Inc fell 1.3 percent to $555.59, leading a decline in technology stocks, after Wells Fargo cut its rating on the iPad and iPhone maker to "market perform" from "outperform". Apple was the biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 indexes.
The S&P technology index fell 1 percent, the biggest decliner among the 10 major S&P sectors.
Among the stocks that fell the most Thursday were those that had enjoyed the best gains in 2013, including Netflix, which was down 1.4 percent at $363.01, and Micron Tech Inc , which was off 0.7 percent at $21.59.
Netflix was the biggest gainer of last year with a hefty return of 296.4 percent while Micron Tech skyrocketed 236 percent, according to data by Schaeffer's Investment Research.
Conversely, last year's biggest losers were among those that were in favor with investors and racked up the best gains on Thursday. Newmont Mining Corp was up 4.3 percent at $24.03 after losing 51 percent in value in 2013.
In economic data, an index of national factory activity stood at 57.0 last month, in line with economists' forecast but a touch below November's 2-1/2-year high of 57.3.
Other data included weekly initial claims which slipped for a second week, to 339,000, suggesting labor market conditions continued to steadily improve.
In another sign of economic improvement, financial data firm Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 55.0 in December, beating November's 54.7 reading.
"(The market is) definitely taking a bit of a breather in looking for the new catalyst, looking for the next investment theme to unfold," said Anastasia Amoroso, Global Market Strategist with J.P. Morgan Funds in New York.
"It's a slow coming back to life and a slow start to the new year but it's also important to look past one day of data points and what we think is going to be a continuation of a cyclical expansion in the United States and elsewhere."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 83.48 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,493.18, the S&P 500 lost 10.52 points, or 0.57 percent, to 1,837.84 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 26.47 points, or 0.63 percent, to 4,150.12.
The S&P 500 closed 2013 with a spectacular 29.6 percent gain for the year, its best annual performance since 1997, adding $3.75 trillion in market value. The Dow surged 26.5 percent in its best year since 1995. The Nasdaq jumped 38.3 percent, its best year since 2009.
In a note to clients, Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup, boosted his year-end 2014 target for the S&P 500 to 1,975 from 1,900, citing earnings progress as the primary driver.
Trading volume Thursday is expected to remain light, with many market participants away during the holiday-abbreviated week. Markets were closed Wednesday for New Year's Day.