By Johann M Cherian and Ankika Biswas
Feb 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes were muted on Thursday, with the S&P 500 just a whisker away from the 5,000-point mark, as investors sized up major corporate earnings reports, softer-than-expected jobs data and remarks from policymakers on interest rate cuts.
Walt Disney DIS.N gained 8.5%, lifting communication services .SPLRCL to one of the top S&P 500 sectors, 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 3.0% 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 81.2% surpassing expectations, compared with a long-term average of 67%, according to LSEG data earlier this week.
On the economic data front, a Labor Department report showed Americans filing for state unemployment benefits dipped to 218,000 during the week ended Feb. 3, compared with economists' forecast of 220,000.
"We still have a pretty tight labor market at this point, when you combine that with the most recent employment reports," said Jason Pride, chief of investment strategy at Glenmede.
"This also comes at a time when some of the more recent economic reports are holding up better than the Fed expected, with evidence that inflation hasn't really settled down to 2%."
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 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 9:46 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 1.96 points, or 0.01%, at 38,675.40, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 4.24 points, or 0.08%, at 4,990.82, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 8.23 points, or 0.05%, at 15,748.42.
New York Community Bancorp NYCB.N lost 7.7% a day after the lender sought to bolster investor confidence by appointing a new executive chairman and said it could cut exposure to the troubled commercial real estate segment.
Arm ARM.O soared 38.7% 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 9.4% after a forecast of flat growth in adjusted profit for the current year overshadowed its market-beating earnings report, pushing the S&P 500 financial sector .SPSYdown 0.7%.
Ralph Lauren RL.N gained 10.9% 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 1.51-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.13-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 33 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 62 new highs and 41 new lows.
Wall St rally https://tmsnrt.rs/3SvK1tY
(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Ankika Biswas in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Maju Samuel)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.