Stocks were little changed on Thursday, erasing most losses as investors took the opportunity to buy shares at a cheaper price.

Stocks started the session lower, weighed down by Cisco Systems Inc's 13.2 percent drop to $19.13 a day after the network equipment maker and Dow component reported weaker margins.

The pattern that we have been seeing recently is that we don't see selloffs that last very long. They are being bought. Investors are buying on the dips, said Howard Ward, chief investment officer of Gamco Growth Fund in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 29.63 points, or 0.24 percent, at 12,210.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.88 point, or 0.07 percent, at 1,320.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 0.19 point, or 0.01 percent, at 2,789.26.

With the Dow and S&P up 5 percent so far this year, some traders said the market was in a short-term correction.

According to Larry McMillan of McMillan Analysis Corp, 93 percent of traders in an industry survey were bullish on the S&P 500 futures on Tuesday, but the number fell to 90 percent at Wednesday's close. A drop below 90 percent, accompanied by a down day in the market, would be a sell signal.

In economic data, new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest in 2-1/2 years, the government said, in a sign the labor market was improving.

The market was closely watching developments in Egypt after Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told the BBC that President Hosni Mubarak may step down and the situation in the country will be clarified soon, the British broadcaster said on Thursday.

Egypt has somewhat come off the boil since the issue first broke, said Alec Young, equity strategist at S&P Equity Research in New York. Any acceleration on his departure would be viewed positively.

Disappointing earnings overseas hurt sentiment as Credit Suisse missed profit expectations. The bank's U.S.-traded shares dropped 6.8 percent to $43.49.

Soft drink and snacks maker PepsiCo Inc

cut its full-year earnings growth target, sending its shares down 1.8 percent to $63.29.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica in New York and Doris Frankel in Chicago; Editing by Kenneth Barry)