By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks finished a quiet session mostly flat on Thursday as earnings painted a mixed picture of the economy, though the S&P 500 set another record closing high.
The latest economic data failed to impress buyers. U.S. claims for initial jobless benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 284,000, the lowest since mid-February 2006. New home sales declined 8.1 percent in June, the biggest drop in almost a year. The PHLX housing sector index <.HGX> lost 2.7 percent, marking its biggest one-day drop since February.
Recent gains on Wall Street have been fueled by earnings, which have been strong this quarter. With 41 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported results so far, 68 percent have posted earnings that topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the long-term average of 63 percent. On the revenue side, 62.1 percent have beaten analysts' forecasts, compared with the historical average of 61 percent.
"There's a tug of war in the market today between the companies that did well and the companies that didn't. Caterpillar was disappointing, but stocks remain reasonably valued and the earnings season supports continued gains," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dipped 2.83 points or 0.02 percent, to close at 17,083.80. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.97 of a point or 0.05 percent to end at 1,987.98, its second record closing high in a row. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> shed 1.59 points or 0.04 percent, to finish at 4,472.11.
At its record intraday high of 1,991.39, the S&P 500 was just 0.4 percent below the 2,000 milestone.
Among the companies that reported results after the closing bell, Amazon.com Inc
During the regular session, stocks that made big moves after earnings included Under Armour Inc
The benchmark S&P 500's biggest decliner was homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc
General Motors Co
Almost 51 percent of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange ended the day lower, while 52 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended in negative territory.
About 5.58 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data, compared with the month-to-date average of 5.54 billion.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)