US STOCKS-Wall St flat with S&P near record, Target rallies
* S&P 500 has been unable to close at a record this week
* Target and Lowe's rally after results
* Jan new home sales surge past forecasts
* Indexes up: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were mostly flat on Wednesday as, for a third straight session, equities were unable to hold onto gains that took the S&P 500 near record levels.
Stocks opened higher but pared gains almost immediately despite some positive housing data and strong results from retailers Target Corp and Lowe's Cos Inc. The S&P's record has been serving as a resistance level, with traders finding few reasons to push indexes out of their recent trading range. The index is less than 1 percent below its all-time high.
In a positive sign, new home sales surged to a 5-1/2-year high in January, far outpacing expectations. While much recent data has been below forecasts, analysts have pinned that to bad weather rather than worsening fundamentals. The housing data could support that theory.
"The vast majority of recent weakness has been related to weather, with the Northeast paralyzed and stores horrible as a result, while we continue to see strength in areas that weren't impacted," said Eric Green, senior portfolio manager and director of research at Penn Capital Management in Philadelphia. Continuación...