By Medha Singh and Devik Jain
July 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 backed off a five-month peak in a choppy trading on Thursday as investors held out for a new coronavirus relief package, with latest data showing signs that a recovery in the labor market was stalling.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in nearly four months against the backdrop of a resurgence in U.S. coronavirus cases, which has now infected more than 4 million people across the country.
"Because of the perception that there will continue to be further commitment to the market, you're seeing a market that is continuing forward despite a level of rationality from many savvy experienced people who think this is stone cold crazy," said Eric Schiffer, chief executive officer of the private equity firm, the Patriarch Organization.
"We are at an inflection point and given how the health conditions may impact business - which was not considered to the extent it is today - the market is on far shakier ground that investors believe."
U.S. Senate Republicans plan to propose another round of direct payments to Americans in the next coronavirus relief bill, a senior aide said on Thursday, as the White House urged Republican lawmakers to get a $1 trillion relief package out quickly.
Optimism about a potential vaccine, fiscal stimulus and improving economic data has helped the benchmark S&P 500 recoup most of its virus-induced losses and rise 1% this year. The benchmark index is about 3% below its Feb. 19 record close.
Of the 75 S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly results, 77% of them have beaten dramatically lowered profit estimates, according to IBES Refinitiv data.
Microsoft Corp MSFT.O fell 2.7%, weighing the most on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, as its flagship cloud computing business Azure reported quarterly sales growth of under 50% for the first time ever.
Tesla Inc TSLA.O posted a fourth consecutive quarterly profit, clearing a hurdle that could lead to the electric carmaker's inclusion in the S&P 500 index .SPX. However its shares gave back early losses to fall 2.5%.
Twitter Inc TWTR.N jumped 6.0% as it reported record yearly growth in daily users.
At 1:07 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 103.19 points, or 0.38%, at 26,902.65 and the S&P 500 .SPX was down 11.58 points, or 0.35%, at 3,264.44. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 106.11 points, or 0.99%, at 10,600.02.
American Airlines AAL.O and Southwest Airlines LUV.N said they were rethinking the number of flights they had planned to add to their schedules for August and September.
However, shares of both the carriers rose as American joined major carriers in expecting slowing cash burn rates over the rest of the year.
The S&P 1500 airlines index .SPCOMAIR erased early losses to advance 3.2%.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.46-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 51 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 97 new highs and 12 new lows.
(Reporting by Medha Singh and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Maju Samuel)
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