US STOCKS-Wall St flat as focus on trade dulls upbeat outlook from retailers

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* Target, Kohl's jump on strong annual earnings forecast

* Upbeat earnings lifts consumer discretionary

* Pompeo says Trump to walk if trade deal isn't perfect-report

* Dow & Nasdaq flat, S&P off 0.09 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel

March 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks struggled for direction onTuesday, as a lack of fresh cues on U.S.-China tradenegotiations curbed investor appetite despite upbeat profitforecasts from retailers.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President DonaldTrump will reject any deal that was not perfect, but added theUnited States will keep working on an agreement.

Wall Street kicked off the day on a muted note after losingground on Monday, when the S&P 500 failed to close above the2,800-point mark for the second session in a row.

"People are looking at the trade talks and how that getsnegotiated through and that's not something you can quantify sothat is why you are sitting in a very tight range," said MattLloyd, chief investment officer, Advisors Asset Management inMonument, Colorado.

"There is no outright move in markets. There is no reason tobuy and there is no reason to sell so people are maintainingtheir cash positions."

The S&P 500 has climbed about 11 percent in 2019 and is nowabout 5 percent away from its Sept.20 record closing high,helped by a dovish stance from the Federal Reserve and on hopesthe United States and China would soon hammer out a tradesolution.

Target CorpTGT.N jumped 4.93 percent, while Kohl's CorpKSS.N gained 7.01 percent after the retailers forecast annualearnings above expectations.

Their upbeat results pushed the consumer discretionary .SPLRCD 0.27 percent higher, the most among S&P sectors. Theretailing index .SPXRT rose 0.33 percent.

At 12:45 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI wasdown 2.33 points, or 0.01 percent, at 25,817.32, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 2.44 points, or 0.09 percent, at 2,790.37 andthe Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 2.67 points, or 0.04percent, at 7,580.24.

Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings to fall 1.3percent year-over-year, compared with prior expectations of 5.3percent rise at the start of the year, according to Refinitivdata. It will be the first drop in quarterly earnings growthsince 2016.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were trading lower, withthe financial sector's .SPSY 0.52 percent fall leading thelosses.

The sector was weighed down by losses in Wall Street's bigbanks, with Citigroup IncC.N down 1.6 percent and Wells Fargo& CoWFC.N 0.9 percent.

Among other stocks, Align Technology Inc'sALGN.O tumbled5.97 percent, the most among S&P 500 companies, after theorthodontic device maker said it expects to take a charge in itscurrent quarter.

On the macro front, ISM's non-manufacturing activity indexshowed a reading of 59.7 in February, better than estimates of57.3, while another report showed new U.S. single-family homesrose to a seven-month high in December.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.22-to-1 ratioon the NYSE and for a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded eight new 52-week highs and one newlow, while the Nasdaq recorded 28 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru;Editing by Arun Koyyur) ((; within U.S. +1646 223 8780,outside U.S. +91 80 6749 1130; Reuters

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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