US STOCKS-Wall St little changed at record levels; Merck slips

Reuters

* Merck falls after results; Biogen higher

* Pending home sales slump in Sept, housing stocks fall

* Dow off 0.08 pct, S&P 500 up 0.04 pct, Nasdaq off 0.26 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changedon Monday as investors found few catalysts to push equitieshigher after the S&P 500's latest record high.

The S&P 500 has risen more than 6 percent since Oct. 8, itslowest point during the partial government shutdown and debateover raising the debt ceiling.

The gains have sent the benchmark to a series of recordhighs, largely on investor expectations the U.S. Federal Reservewill keep stimulus measures in place for at least several monthsas a result of the damage done to the economy by the politicalwrangling in Washington.

"The Fed is not going anywhere, which is what caused therally for the last week-and-a-half, but now the market does feela little bit tired, it certainly feels like the market is aheadof where the fundamentals say," said Ken Polcari, director ofthe NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.

"As much as everyone tells us the economy is turning around,the macro data is not supporting that, so it's confusing."

Investors could take their cue from corporate earnings as acatalyst for any further gains or pullback, with Apple Inc's highly anticipated results after the market closes,though results have been mixed thus far.

Dow component Merck & Co fell 2.7 percent to $45.30,one of the biggest drags on the Dow, after reporting a declinein sales of its Januvia diabetes treatment, raising concernsabout growth prospects for its biggest product.

Biogen Idec posted a rise in its third-quarterearnings and boosted its full-year earnings and revenue outlook,sending its shares up 1.4 percent to $255.80.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.13 points or0.08 percent, to 15,558.15, the S&P 500 gained 0.67points or 0.04 percent, to 1,760.44 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 10.231 points or 0.26 percent, to 3,933.129.

Based on Thomson Reuters data through Monday morning, S&P500 earnings are expected to have risen just 3.4 percent in thethird quarter.

Of the 249 companies in the S&P 500 that have reportedearnings so far, 69.1 percent beat analysts' expectations, aboveboth the 63 percent beat rate since 1994 and the 66 percent ratefor the past four quarters.

Revenue has been lackluster, however, with growth seen at2.2 percent for the quarter. Just 53.9 percent have beaten salesestimates, below the 61 percent rate since 2002, but above the49 percent rate for the past four quarters.

Mosaic Co agreed to buy CF Industries Holdings Inc's phosphate mining and manufacturing business for $1.2billion in cash. Shares of CF climbed 3.7 percent to $217.37while Mosaic edged up 0.4 percent to $46.11.

Shares of Consol Energy Inc advanced 0.5 percent to$38.34 after the company said it would sell five West Virginiacoal mines for $850 million in cash, as well as $184 million infuture royalty payments for coal reserves.

Housing stocks dipped as economic data showed pending homesales slumped 5.6 percent in September, a rate that was farsteeper than expected and the biggest drop in more than threeyears.

Lennar Corp shed 1.6 percent to $36.41 and D.R.Horton Inc lost 1.4 percent to $19.50. The PHLX housingsector index HGX> declined 0.7 percent.

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