US STOCKS-Wall St little changed with data, earnings eyed
* Jobless claims rise less than expected
* Altera/Intel deal reportedly called off, shares dip
* Dow flat, S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
April 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed in choppy trading on Thursday after initial jobless claims data rose less than expected, suggesting an abrupt slowdown in job growth in March could be temporary.
The energy sector helped buoy the market with a 1.2 percent gain on the back of a rebound in crude futures prices.
The market has lately struggled to digest a mixed bag of economic data, with strong numbers backing the idea that the Federal Reserve should begin raising interest rates, and weak data possibly indicating fragile growth and less economic readiness for a rate rise.
The market was struggling to find direction as 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...