By Johann M Cherian and Ankika Biswas
Feb 8 (Reuters) - The benchmark S&P 500 index was muted on Thursday, lingering near the 5,000-point mark, as investors sized up major corporate earnings reports, a roughly in-line jobs report and remarks from policymakers on interest rate cuts.
Walt Disney DIS.N gained 11.9% after the media giant hit back at activist investors with a market-beating profit, a gaming investment and plans to launch an ESPN streaming service in 2025.
The company also announced a $3 billion share repurchase plan and a 50% increase in dividend.
Spirit Airlines SAVE.N jumped 2.5% as it expects to operate with a positive cash flow from the second quarter after reporting a narrower-than-expected loss.
More than half of the S&P 500 companies have reported quarterly earnings, with 80.6% surpassing expectations, compared with a long-term average of 67%, according to LSEG data.
On the economic data front, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly more than expected last week, pointing to underlying labor market strength.
"It (jobless claims data) is another data point that the economy remains resilient and that the potential for a soft landing or economic re-acceleration can still happen," said Dylan Kremer, chief investment officer at Certuity.
Meanwhile, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said recent stronger-than-expected data on the U.S. economy may be partly due to the difficulty of making accurate seasonal adjustments around the beginning of a new year.
On Wednesday, the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX notched new record highs, inching closer to 5,000 points, as investors looked past uncertainty on the timing of interest rate cuts and jitters around the stability of some regional banks.
The Nasdaq .IXIC on Thursday is about 2.8% away from breaching its all-time high hit in November 2021, driven by an ongoing rally in technology and tech-adjacent stocks.
At 11:54 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 117.63 points, or 0.30%, at 38,559.73, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 4.13 points, or 0.08%, at 4,990.93, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 40.01 points, or 0.25%, at 15,796.66.
The S&P 500 energy sector .SPNY led sectoral gains with a 0.7% rise, tracking a jump in crude prices.
Keeping risk appetite in check, New York Community Bancorp NYCB.N lost 4.2% a day after the lender appointed a new executive chairman and said it could cut exposure to the troubled commercial real estate segment.
Arm ARM.O soared 56.6% after the British tech company forecast quarterly sales and profit above expectations as customers aim to design new chips for artificial intelligence work, generating higher royalties.
PayPal PYPL.O dropped 11.4% after a forecast of flat growth in adjusted profit for the current year, pushing the S&P 500 financial sector .SPSY down 0.9%.
Ralph Lauren RL.N gained 14.7% following a third-quarter revenue beat, while apparel maker Under Armour UAA.N climbed 1.3% after raising its annual profit forecast.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.14-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.41-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
Wall St rally https://tmsnrt.rs/3SvK1tY
(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Ankika Biswas in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)