US STOCKS-Wall St searches for direction with data, earnings eyed
* Jobless claims rise less than expected
* Altera/Intel deal reportedly called off, shares dip
* Indexes down: Dow 0.3 pct; S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct (Adds comment, updates prices)
By Tanya Agrawal
April 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell slightly in choppy trading on Thursday after initial jobless claims rose less than expected, suggesting the abrupt slowdown in job growth in March could be temporary.
The market has lately struggled to digest economic data, since strong numbers would back the idea that the Federal Reserve should begin raising interest rates. Weak data, on the other hand, could mean the economic slowdown in the first quarter was not just weather related.
The energy sector helped buoy the market with a 0.6 percent gain on the back of a rebound in crude futures prices.
Stocks are struggling to find direction because investors are caught between the angst of losing the support Fed policy has given the market and having few other options regarding where to put their money, said Tim Rudderow, president and chief investment officer at Mount Lucas Management in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
"It's a very difficult argument to make that I should take my money out of the stock market," he said, adding that stocks will likely tread water even through earnings season. Continuación...