* Caterpillar higher after fourth-quarter results
* S&P 500 coming off eight straight sessions of gains
* Bargain hunters may look at Apple following recent drop
* Indexes: Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P 500 flat, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
(Updates to market open)
NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were flat on
Monday, with investors reluctant to make big bets following an
extended equity rally, though strong data and results from
Caterpillar kept a positive tone in markets.
The S&P 500 is coming off a streak of eight sessions of
gains, the longest winning streak for the index in eight years.
On Friday, it closed above 1,500 for the first time in more than
Caterpillar Inc rose 1.8 percent to $97.24 after the
Dow component reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings that
beat expectations, though revenue was slightly below forecasts.
The heavy machinery maker also said it expects China's economy
to improve, though not at the rates of 2010 and 2011.
The results continued the trend of major firms posting
strong quarters, contributing to major averages rising for four
"You can't find more of a global bellwether than Cat, and
people are pleased with the number, which suggests there could
be less concern about slowing growth in China after this," said
Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in
Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147
S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 68 percent
exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have
topped expectations, while the average over the past four
quarters stands at 65 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 18.07 points,
or 0.13 percent, at 13,914.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was down 0.07 points, or 0.00 percent, at 1,502.89. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 7.25 points, or 0.23
percent, at 3,156.97.
The S&P 500 on Friday closed at its highest since Dec. 10,
2007, and the Dow ended at its highest since Oct. 31, 2007. Over
the past four weeks, the S&P has jumped 7.2 percent, suggesting
markets may be vulnerable to a pullback if news disappoints.
Durable goods jumped 4.6 percent in December, a pace that
far outstripped expectations for a rise of 1.8 percent.
"We continue to have a parade of better-than-expected
economic reports. All-in-all it's a good picture. I think
there's a good chance we've reached a point of recognition where
people don't think the economy will crater," Kaufman said.
In addition to earnings, equities have also risen on an
agreement in Washington to extend the government's borrowing
power. On Monday, Fitch Ratings said that agreement removed the
near-term risk to the country's 'AAA' rating.
Previously, the agency said the lack of an agreement would
prompt a review of the sovereign rating.
In company news, Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc said
a late-stage trial of its experimental kidney disease drug met
the main study goal of reducing phosphate levels in blood,
sending shares up 43 percent to $4.91.
Bargain hunters may look to Apple Inc in the first
session after the tech giant lost its coveted title as the
largest U.S. company by market capitalization to Exxon Mobil
Corp. Apple rose 0.7 percent to $443.06.
On Friday, Apple's market cap fell to $413 billion, down
roughly $250 billion from its September peak. Apple's fall is
about equal to the entire value of Google Inc.
"Apple is pretty attractive right now, so you may see an
opportunity here," said Chris Bertelsen, who helps oversee $1.5
billion as chief investment officer of Global Financial Private
Capital in Sarasota, Florida. "Those who think the stock is dead
have made a big mistake."
(Editing by W Simon, Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)