Stocks were little changed on Thursday as indexes struggled to break through a technical range and economic bellwether FedEx posted results that missed estimates but offered a bullish forecast.
Stock index losses were limited after a report showed unexpected improvement in factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index easily topped forecasts.
The data overall was good but comes with still modest hiring and inflation pressures growing, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak + Co in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 18.43 points, or 0.16 percent, at 11,439.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.11 points, or 0.01 percent, at 1,235.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 4.51 points, or 0.17 percent, at 2,621.73.
Technically, the Dow enters today trading above potential short-term support at the 11,450 level, while resistance at the 11,500 level is still a major barrier to a continued rally, said Joseph Hargett, analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Economic data on jobs and housing were in line with expectations. First-time jobless claims were little changed in the latest week, cementing a recent downward trend that remains too modest to bring down unemployment.
U.S. housing starts rose slightly more than forecast in November, but an unexpected drop in permits for future home construction dropped to a 1-1/2 year low, indicated continued weakness in the housing market.
U.S. stocks suffered a third straight late-day selloff on Wednesday, suggesting it may be tough to record further gains as the year comes to a close.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)