* Consumer sentiment data better-than-expected
* GE rises after Q3 results
* Grainger, Honeywell fall after results
* Sept industrial production in line with view
* Twitter rises after Ballmer discloses 4 pct stake
* Dow up 0.11 pct, S&P up 0.06 pct, Nasdaq down 0.10 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
Oct 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed as investors absorbed positive consumer sentiment data and mixed results from industrial heavyweights GE and Honeywell.
GE’s shares rose as much as 3.4 percent to $28.99 - their highest since the financial crisis - after reporting better-than-expected earnings. The stock provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500.
But Honeywell fell 2.5 percent to $96.10 even though it also beat profit estimates. Industrial tool maker Grainger slumped 5.9 percent to $208.62 after results.
“Today’s earnings are mixed. They don’t paint a strong one-directional picture of improvement or deterioration,” said Doug Burtnick, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management.
As the first week of earnings draws to a close, S&P 500 companies are now expected to show a 3.9 percent fall in third-quarter profit, the biggest decline in six years, according to Thomson Reuters data.
At 12:52 p.m. ET (1652 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 18.64 points, or 0.11 percent, at 17,160.39, the S&P 500 was up 1.29 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,025.15.
Both the indexes were on track to close higher for the third straight week. As well, they were set for the best three-week run since February.
The Nasdaq composite index was down 5.00 points, or 0.1 percent, at 4,865.11.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary index on consumer sentiment rebounded strongly in early October, suggesting that the economic recovery remained on track.
The data pushed the S&P consumer staples sector higher, making it the top gainer among the major S&P sectors.
In other U.S. data, industrial production in September shrank for the second month in a row, but was in line with expectations.
“We’re seeing enough signs that the economy is getting on an at least a stable enough ground where the Fed can feel comfortable embarking upon a rate hiking program that will likely be very long and gradual,” said Kevin Mahn, chief investment officer of Hennion & Walsh Asset Management.
The Fed, which kept rates at near-zero levels at its September meeting, is waiting for signs of stabilizing inflation and sustained economic recovery before it pulls the trigger.
Twitter rose 3.6 percent to $30.79 after Bloomberg reported that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer owns a 4 percent stake in the company.
Youku Tudou jumped 22.3 percent to $24.98 after Alibaba offered to buy the video-streaming company for $26.60 per American Depository Share. Alibaba was flat at $71.82.
Yum Brands rose 3.9 percent to $71.97 after the company said it had appointed activist investor Keith Meister to its board.
Zafgen slumped nearly 37.7 percent to $13.09 after the company said its obesity drug trial been put on partial clinical hold by the U.S. FDA.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,508 to 1,441. On the Nasdaq, 1,585 issues fell and 1,065 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed 20 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 16 new lows. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)