Stocks slightly pared losses on Thursday after U.S. existing home sales surged in December, offering hope for a sector struggling to recover from its worst slump in modern history.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 23.31 points, or 0.20 percent, at 11,801.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 3.55 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,278.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 18.12 points, or 0.66 percent, at 2,707.24.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)