The Dow Jones and S&P 500 inched higher on Tuesday as stronger-than-expected retail data and a rally in transportation companies overshadowed concern about discussions on raising the debt ceiling.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 28 points, or 0.2%, at 13,535. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up two points, or 0.11%, at 1,472. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down seven points, or 0.22%, at 3,111.
Retail shares rallied after a government report showed retail sales jumped more than expected in December, which was seen as a favourable sign for fourth-quarter growth.
American Eagle Outfitters Inc gained 4.8% and Gap Inc rose 3.4%. The Morgan Stanley retail index advanced 1.5%. Express Inc surged 23.8% after the apparel retailer raised its fourth-quarter and full year 2012 outlook.
In another report, manufacturing activity in New York state was seen contracting for the sixth month in a row in January.
Investors were also cautious ahead of the debt ceiling debate. The US could default on its debt if Congress does not increase the borrowing limit.
An expected lacklustre earnings season also kept investors from taking aggressive bets.
Apple was a big drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 after reports on Monday of cuts to orders for iPhone parts. Shares fell 3.2%.
Homebuilder Lennar shed 0.8% despite reporting a sharp rise in quarterly profit on worries that growth in orders was slowing.
Dell Inc surged 7.2% after sources said talks to take the computer maker private are in an advanced stage.
On the down side, shares of Facebook dropped 2.7% after the company introduced a tool for searching information posted to its social network.
Lululemon Athletica Inc. slid 3.9% after the Canadian yoga-wear retailer forecast fourth-quarter sales that trailed analysts’ estimates.
In Asia, shares declined on Wednesday led by Japanese equities after the yen gained dimming the outlook for export earnings.The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.3% to 132 as of 10:39 a.m. Tokyo time. Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.5%, after closing yesterday at the highest level since April 2010. China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.1%. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slipped 0.6% and South Korea’s Kospi Index added 0.4%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.4%.