* Netflix tumbles after quarterly results
* UnitedHealth leads Dow, S&P higher
* Initial jobless claims lowest in 14 years
* Indexes: Dow down 0.2 pct, S&P and Nasdaq flat (Updates to afternoon trading)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq moved in and out of positive territory in afternoon trading Thursday after starting the day with losses, as economic reports eased fears about the potential impact of a weakening global economy on the United States.
The Dow, which has closed down for five straight sessions, was slightly lower.
Energy shares provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500, with the S&P 500 energy index up 1.2 percent. The index, which has lost ground dramatically in recent sessions, briefly slipped into bear market territory earlier this week.
While the day’s moves were not as dramatic as in recent sessions, the S&P 500 remained well below its 200-day moving average of around 1,905.
“A lot of the selling got done yesterday, whether it was forced liquidation or just scared money leaving the market ... so it looks like it’s a short-term bounce,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
“We need to see the S&P regain its 200-day moving average before we can say that the uptrend has been restored. We had some technical support today, but fundamentals are still somewhat negative with Ebola, weak global growth and commodity price weakness.”
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, and industrial output rose sharply in September.
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.
Netflix shares plunged 20.5 percent to $356.33 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.
At 3:01 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.53 points, or 0.24 percent, to 16,102.21, the S&P 500 lost 0.42 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,862.07 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.44 points, or 0.01 percent, to 4,214.88.
The largest percentage gainer on the S&P 500 was Chesapeake Energy, which rose 16.5 percent, while the largest decliner was Netflix.
Advancing issues were outnumbering declining ones on the NYSE by 2,178 to 889, for a 2.45-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,837 issues were rising and 853 falling for a 2.15-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting no new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 16 new highs and 86 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)