US STOCKS-Wall St struggles for direction as Congress wrangles over stimulus


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    * Weekly jobless claims fall more than expected
    * Western Digital sinks after soft outlook
    * Becton Dickinson tumbles as lockdowns hit medical devices
    * Dow flat, S&P down 0.18%, Nasdaq dips 0.09%

 (Adds quote, details; updates prices)
    By Medha Singh and Ambar Warrick
    Aug 6 (Reuters) - Major U.S. stock averages treaded water on
Thursday as investors awaited a new fiscal aid package to prop
up the country's economy, with data showing 31.3 million
Americans were receiving unemployment checks in mid-July.
    Still, the tech-heavy Nasdaq clinched a new record high in
early trading. The benchmark S&P 500 and blue-chip Dow were
about 2% and 8% away from their own peaks scaled in February.
    Economic data released on Thursday painted a mixed picture
as Labor Department numbers showed a first fall in jobless
claims in three weeks, while a separate report showed a 54%
surge in job cuts announced by employers in July.*:nL1N2F71R8
    The focus now shifts to the monthly jobs report on Friday.
    "The (stocks) treading water might be waiting for tomorrow's
actual number... The other most important thing that's going on
is the stimulus bill, and the lack of agreement between the
White House and the Democratic party as to what the deal ought
to include," said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at
GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta.
    Top congressional Democrats and White House officials will
try again on Thursday to find a compromise on major issues
including the size of a federal benefit for the unemployed as
they work towards a relief legislation.*:nL1N2F72Y7    
    But Wall Street's main indexes are set for a second straight
weekly gain, powered by heaps of fiscal and monetary stimulus
and better-than-feared second-quarter earnings.
    At 11:33 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI 
was down 4.10 points, or 0.02%, at 27,197.42, the S&P 500  .SPX 
was down 5.92 points, or 0.18%, at 3,321.85. The Nasdaq
Composite  .IXIC  was down 9.39 points, or 0.09%, at 10,989.01.
    Healthcare shares  .SPXHC  fell the most among major S&P
    Among individual shares, Becton Dickinson and Co  BDX.N 
dropped 9.1% after posting quarterly revenue below estimates as
delayed elective procedures during coronavirus-led lockdowns
squeezed demand for some of its devices.*:nL4N2F82XU 
    Western Digital  WDC.O  sank 15.7% after the hard drive
maker reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue and
forecast a soft current quarter.*:nL4N2F74HF
    Bristol-Myers Squibb Co  BMY.N  gained 2.5% after the
drugmaker raised its annual profit forecast on hopes of a
recovery in demand for its hospital-administered drugs.*:nL4N2F746C
    ViacomCBS Inc  VIACA.O  jumped 5.0% after beating analysts'
estimates for quarterly revenue due to high demand for
    Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.26-to-1 ratio
on the NYSE and for a 1.59-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
    The S&P index recorded 20 new 52-week highs and no new low,
while the Nasdaq recorded 128 new highs and three new lows.

 (Reporting by Medha Singh and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru;
Editing by Bernard Orr and Uttaresh.V)
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