US STOCKS-S&P 500 flat 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 up 0.11%, S&P down 0.03%, Nasdaq up 0.32%

 (Updates to early afternoon)
    By Medha Singh and Ambar Warrick
    Aug 6 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 treaded water on Thursday as
investors awaited a new fiscal aid package to prop up the
economy, with data showing a staggering 31.3 million Americans
were receiving unemployment checks in mid-July.
    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 July 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.
    The corporate results season is now in its final stretch,
with about 424 S&P 500 firms having reported so far. Earnings
have been about 22.5% above analyst expectations, according to
IBES Refinitiv data, the highest on record since 1994.
    At 12:51 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI 
was up 29.83 points, or 0.11%, at 27,231.35, the S&P 500  .SPX 
was down 0.94 points, or 0.03%, at 3,326.83.
    The Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  was up 34.83 points, or 0.32%,
at 11,033.23, supported by gains in Facebook Inc  FB.O  and
Apple Inc  AAPL.O .
    Healthcare shares  .SPXHC  fell the most among major S&P
    Among individual shares, Becton Dickinson and Co  BDX.N 
dropped 8.7% 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 16.4% 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 2.9% 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 3.8% after beating analysts'
estimates for quarterly revenue due to high demand for
    Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.16-to-1 ratio
on the NYSE and for a 1.47-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
    The S&P index recorded 21 new 52-week highs and no new low,
while the Nasdaq recorded 133 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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