U.S. stocks were little changed in choppy trading on Thursday as investors paused after an extended period of gains, expressing worries about a pullback.

Shares of financials, which had led recent gains, were losing ground. American Express was down 1.8 percent at $35.21 and was among the top drags on the Dow.

Weighing on the Nasdaq was Oracle Corp , which fell 2.3 percent to $21.62 a day after reporting first-quarter revenue that missed expectations.

Data showed factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region rose in September to its highest level since June 2007, underscoring hopes that the economic recovery was on track.

We're extremely overbought and extremely susceptible to a pullback, said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco. But there's been nothing but a barrage of positive news.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 3.09 points, or 0.03 percent, at 9,794.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.54 points, or 0.14 percent, at 1,067.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 3.26 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,129.89.

In other data, new construction of U.S. homes and permits for future building scaled a nine-month high in August, and the number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week, proof a recovery was under way.

But investors focused on a drop in single-family units groundbreaking activity. U.S. government bond prices rose.

On Wednesday, Wall Street hit 2009 highs on optimism about a global recovery. Stocks have risen eight of the last nine sessions on strong data and a pickup in merger and acquisition activity. The S&P 500 is up 58 percent since March lows.

Shares of American Airlines' parent, AMR Corp , rose 19.6 percent to $8.79 after the company said it had raised $2.9 billion and would shift flying to more profitable routes.

Shipping company Fedex Corp , considered an economic bellwether, slid 2.1 percent to $76.53 after it reported first-quarter earnings that fell 53 percent from the prior year. The company also said it was planning rate increases to offset falling surcharge revenue.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)