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US STOCKS-Wall St flat as tech gains limited by weakness in consumer discretionary

(Corrects paragraph 1 to remove reference to Discovery Incbeing a part of the consumer discretionary sector)

* Consumer confidence rises more than expected in Feb

* Homebuilding hits more than two-year low in December

* Home Depot falls after sales miss estimates

* Caterpillar drops on double downgrade from UBS

* Indexes: Dow and S&P flat, Nasdaq off 0.14 pct

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed in choppytrading on Tuesday, as gains in technology sector were offset bylosses in shares of consumer discretionary companies includingHome Depot.

Investors also assessed a mixed set of economic data thatwas released earlier in the day.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose morethan expected in February, while a report from the CommerceDepartment showed U.S. homebuilding tumbled to a more thantwo-year low in December.

Home Depot Inc'sHD.N lower-than-expected quarterly salesfurther underscored slowdown in the sector. The home improvementretailer's shares fell 1.8 percent, dragging the S&P 500consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD down 0.18 percent.

The U.S. economy will grow at a solid though slower pace in2019 and the central bank will remain "patient" in decidingwhether to further raise interest rates, Federal ReserveChairman Jerome Powell said at a hearing before the U.S. SenateBanking Committee.

"He is saying sort of what we have been reading: conflictingsignals. If you have a positive consumer you should have apositive economy and that may be reinforced by the confidencenumber that assuaged a lot of investor concerns," said JackAblin, chief investment officer at Cresset Capital Management inChicago.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower with consumerdiscretionary stocks weighing the most.

Among other drags was Caterpillar IncCAT.N , which fell2.4 percent after brokerage UBS double downgraded the stock.

The technology sector .SPLRCT eked out a 0.15 percent gainas Microsoft CorpMSFT.O rose 1 percent.

At 13:02 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI wasdown 3.43 points, or 0.01 percent, at 26,088.52, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 0.93 points, or 0.03 percent, at 2,795.18 andthe Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 10.81 points, or 0.14percent, at 7,543.65.

U.S. stocks have been bolstered in recent weeks by tradeoptimism and dovish signals from the Fed, with the benchmark S&Pindex about 5 percent away from its record closing high inSeptember.

Healthcare stocks .SPXHC fell 0.21 percent as a U.S.Senate hearing on drug-price, where top executives from some ofthe largest drug companies are expected to get grilled on thehigh cost of prescription drugs, progressed.

AutoZone IncAZO.N climbed 5.0 percent after the autoparts retailer posted better-than-expected quarterly same-storesales.

Discovery IncDISCA.O fell 6.9 percent after the AnimalPlanet owner missed quarterly profit expectations on significantdecrease in revenue from its education business.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.24-to-1 ratioon the NYSE and for a 1.54-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and one new low,while the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and 17 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Medha Singh in Bengaluru;Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing byAnil D'Silva) ((Shreyashi.Sanyal@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 223 8780 ;Reuters Messaging:Shreyashi.Sanyal.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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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