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Stocks drift lower, paring January gains

A trader laughs while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. The Dow edged higher Thursday, keeping the index on track for its best start to the year in more than two decades. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)*

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks drifted lower Thursday, but the Standard & Poor's 500 still logged its best January since 1997.

The Standard and Poor's 500 fell 4 points to 1,498, gaining 5.1 percent for the month. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50 points to 13,860. It's up 5.8 percent this month.

The Nasdaq composite fell a fraction to 3,142. It's up 4.1 percent this month.

Stocks got a small lift early Thursday from a report on business activity in the Chicago area before drifting lower. The Chicago Business Barometer for January came in at 55.6, a higher reading than analysts had forecast. Readings above 50 indicate that economic activity is expanding.

Advancing stocks on the New York Stock Exchange outpaced declining ones. Volume of 3.9 billion shares was above average.