U.S. stocks slipped on Thursday after a three-day runup on concern recent gains were overextended despite the latest round of solid economic data.

Analysts said investors were trying to assess whether further market gains were justified, with the benchmark S&P 500 now up 58 percent since its early March lows.

Shares of financials, energy and other sectors that have led recent gains lost ground. American Express Co , down 2.3 percent at $35, was among top drags on the Dow, along with Exxon Mobil Corp , down 0.7 percent at $69.84.

Data showed business activity in the Mid-Atlantic states jumped more than expected in September and advanced 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> fell 7.79 points, or 0.08 percent, to end at 9,783.92. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 3.27 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,065.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 6.40 points, or 0.30 percent, at 2,126.75.

Weighing on the Nasdaq was Oracle Corp , which fell 2.8 percent to $21.52, a day after reporting first-quarter revenue that missed expectations.

In other economic news, U.S. housing starts and permits increased to their highest level since November, largely due to a big gain in multifamily starts.

Also, the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell unexpectedly last week, the government reported.

The data follows a three-day string of higher closes for stocks, with the market on Wednesday hitting fresh 2009 highs on optimism about a global recovery. Stocks have risen eight of the last nine sessions.

Among gainers, shares of American Airlines parent AMR Corp rose 19.7 percent to $8.80 after the company said it had raised $2.9 billion and would shift flying to more profitable routes. An index of airline shares <.XAL> gained 1.8 percent.

However, shipping company FedEx Corp slid 2.2 percent to $76.46 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.

Volume was slightly above average on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1.52 billion shares changing hands, just above last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion, while on the Nasdaq, about 2.61 billion shares traded, higher than last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a ratio of 17 to 13, while declining stocks were about even with advancers on the Nasdaq.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)