* Netflix tumbles after quarterly results
* UnitedHealth leads Dow, S&P higher
* Initial jobless claims fall to lowest in 14 years
* Indexes: Dow off 0.07 pct, S&P up 0.09 pct, Nasdaq off 0.06 pct (Updates to late morning)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Stocks on Wall Street rebounded from earlier lows on Thursday to trade little changed as a flurry of economic reports helped ease fears a weakening global economy would begin to affect the United States.
Data on Thursday painted a more optimistic picture of the U.S. economy, as initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level in 14 years, after a disappointing retail sales report in the prior session added to investor jitters.
Adding to the positive tone, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told Bloomberg television the U.S. central bank may want to keep up its bond buying stimulus for now given a drop in inflation expectations.
“It’s not just what the Fed speakers are saying, it is who is saying it. Looking at folks who had been previously been portrayed or perceived as being perhaps a little bit more hawkish, now having a much more conciliatory tone is giving a little bit of ease to investor concerns,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank in New York.
“Couple that with data that isn’t continuing to be indicative of slowing in the U.S. - the good jobless claims number, industrial production - what a relief there.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.05 points, or 0.07 percent, to 16,129.69, the S&P 500 gained 1.59 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,864.08 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.44 points, or 0.06 percent, to 4,212.88.
Stocks have been under pressure recently on concerns about weakening global demand and the possible spread of Ebola. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq briefly fell into negative territory for the year in the prior session.
UnitedHealth, up 4.6 percent to $85.94, was the biggest boost to the Dow and S&P 500, helping lead equities off their session lows. The largest U.S. managed care company’s third-quarter earnings topped expectations.
Netflix shares plunged 21.3 percent to $353 as the biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 after it reported quarterly results and said it signed up fewer video-streaming subscribers than forecast for the quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 128.47 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,013.27, the S&P 500 lost 17.39 points, or 0.93 percent, to 1,845.1 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 45.57 points, or 1.08 percent, to 4,169.75.
The earnings of S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 6.9 percent in the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning, on revenue growth of 4.1 percent. Google is expected to report earnings after the closing bell.
The largest percentage gainer on the S&P 500 was Chesapeake Energy, which rose 15.8 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Netflix.
The largest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq 100 was Micron Tech, which was rising 4.4 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Netflix.
Advancing issues were outnumbering declining ones on the NYSE by 1,976 to 1,006, for a 1.96-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,689 issues were rising and 903 falling for a 1.87-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
There were no new 52-week highs on the benchmark S&P 500 index and 15 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 9 new highs and 73 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski