* Fourth-quarter GDP growth revised downward
* J.C. Penney tumbles after earnings
* Indexes: Dow off 0.09 pct, S&P up 0.03 pct, Nasdaq off 0.05 pct (Updates to market open)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Friday, as a mixed batch of economic data provided investors with little incentive to push equities to new records.
Data continues to point to a slowly improving U.S. economy. U.S. growth slowed more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter but the underlying fundamentals remained solid, while a gauge of business activity in the U.S. Midwest dropped to its lowest reading since July 2009 in February.
However, pending home sales rose to their highest level in 1-1/2 years in January and the University of Michigan’s final February reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment slipped from an 11-year high but topped expectations.
“You are in a place where the U.S. economy is a little softer, at least the data we are getting. I would argue it is still on solid footing, it is just we are in a bit of an ebb and the market is kind of ebbing with it a little bit,” said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.
The Dow and Nasdaq were on track for a fourth straight week of gains, while the S&P was flat for the week. The Dow and S&P 500 are near record highs and the Nasdaq is within striking distance of the 5,000 level.
“You are sitting at highs and obviously some bit of good news at least is built into those highs and you need something else to get you over the hump,” said Stone.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.95 points, or 0.09 percent, to 18,197.47, the S&P 500 gained 0.57 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,111.31 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.57 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,985.32.
After a sluggish start to the year, stocks have rebounded sharply in February. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their best month since October 2011, while the Nasdaq is on pace for its best month since January 2012.
Bank of America shares lost 1.8 percent to $15.76 after the company said two members of its board of directors and its chief accounting officer will be leaving the company in coming weeks. UBS also cut its rating on the stock to “neutral” from a “buy” rating.
J.C. Penney dropped 7.8 percent to $8.41 after the retailer posted a surprise quarterly loss and forecast small margin improvements this year.
With earnings season mostly wrapped up, Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning showed that of the 475 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69.5 percent have beaten expectations, against 69 percent in the last four quarters. Earnings growth for the quarter is expected to be 6.8 percent.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,529 to 1,245, for a 1.23-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,282 issues fell and 1,207 advanced for a 1.06-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 21 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 68 new highs and 10 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)