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U.S. stocks on Thursday were little changed, with the S&P 500 again finishing at a record high, a day after Wall Street rallied on reassurances from the Federal Reserve that interest rates would remain low as the U.S. economy continues to recover.
Thursday's modest decline can be chalked up to a round of profit taking, said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab: "We get one nearly every time the S&P 500 hits a new high, so it's not at all uncommon for us to see a dip every time we get to a new record."
Kroger rallied after the supermarket chain posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit and hiked its outlook for full-year adjusted profit; BlackBerry surged after the smartphone maker tallied less of a first-quarter loss than analysts had expected; Red Hat gained after the provider of Linux operating-system software hiked its annual revenue outlook, and Starbucks advanced after UBS upgraded its rating on the coffee chain to buy from neutral.
After the Fed signaled it would be "supportive for a considerable period of time, we are settling back into a catalyst-light mode," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, referring to Thursday's economic data as second-tier in terms of market impact.
"We continue to look for improvement, and second-quarter data, ex-housing, has been better," said Hogan.
Leading indicators were up 0.5 percent in May, versus a 0.6 percent estimate, while a separate report had the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's June business index at 14.5, down from the prior month's reading of 15.4.
And, in another illustration of an improving labor market, the government reported fewer Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week, with applications falling by 6,000 to 312,000.
Stock indexes had held modest losses as President Barack Obama reiterated during a televised news conference Thursday afternoon that U.S. troops would not be returning to Iraq, but the U.S. is prepared to take targeted military action in the country if warranted.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended near where it started, up 14.84 points, or less than 0.1 percent, at 16,921.46, with UnitedHealth Group pacing blue-chip gains and JPMorgan Chase leading declines.
The gained 2.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at a record close of 1,959.48, after rising to an all-time high of 1,959.87. Technology led losses and utilities performed the best among its 10 major industry groups.
The Nasdaq dropped 3.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,359.33.
After falling to a seven-year low, the CBOE Volatility Index, one measure of investor uncertainty, rose 1.2 percent to 10.74.
For every three shares falling, roughly four rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 649 million shares traded. Composite volume cleared 2.9 billion.
As equities slipped, the dollar fell against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used in figuring mortgage rates and consumer loans added 4 basis points to 2.627 percent.
Crude-oil futures for July delivery rose 46 cents to $106.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where the price of gold spiked, with futures for August delivery rising $41.40, or 3.3 percent, to $1,314.10 an ounce.
On Wednesday, the Fed ended a two-day policy session by cutting its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $35 billion. And, Fed Chair Janet Yellen played down worries about inflation during a news conference.
Wednesday's rally was surprising, as Yellen was "more hawkish than what we've heard in the past," said Frederick, referring in part to Yellen talking about rising interest rates and the Fed'd downgrade of first-quarter growth expectations.
—By CNBC's Kate Gibson
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