US STOCKS-S&P 500 ticks up on M&A; Nasdaq extends winning streak
* U.S. home builder sentiment plunges in February
* Coke shares fall after results, drag on Dow industrials
* Forest Labs shares soar; Actavis agrees to buy company
* Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.7 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose on Tuesday, following Wall Street's biggest weekly gain of the year, as merger activity increased confidence that there is value in the stock market even as the benchmark index nears a record high.
The Nasdaq Composite rose for an eighth straight session, a streak not seen since early July.
Economic reports were disappointing, but following a recent pattern, soft data was mostly dismissed by the market and blamed on the weather. U.S. homebuilder confidence suffered its largest one-month drop ever in February, and the New York Federal Reserve's gauge of manufacturing was weaker than expected.
"We're going to see weather as a huge brush over a lot of economic data, mostly if it is related to the consumer," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. Continuación...