S&P 500, Nasdaq end higher with energy; Dow down 6th day

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NEW YORK (Oct 16): The S&P 500 and Nasdaq eked out slight gains on Thursday after another choppy session, as economic data eased fears about the potential effect of a weakening global economy on the United States.

The Dow closed down for sixth straight session, matching a six-day losing streak in August of last year and leaving the index down 2.8 percent for the year so far.

Providing some support to the market, 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.

Economic data showed initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level in 14 years, and industrial output rose sharply in September.

But investors remained cautious, and the selloff could continue if U.S. earnings fail to ease worries about weak global demand. Investors also have been rattled by a widening Ebola scare and plunging oil prices. The S&P 500 is still off 7.4 percent from its Sept. 18 record closing high and is up just 0.8 percent for the year so far.

"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. Fundamentals are still somewhat negative."

The S&P 500 again closed below its 200-day moving average of around 1,905.

Energy shares provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500, with the S&P 500 energy index up 1.7 percent. The index, which has lost ground dramatically in recent weeks, briefly slipped into bear market territory earlier this week.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp rose 17 percent to $20.79 and the stock was the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer after Southwestern Energy Co said it would buy some oil and gas assets in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in West Virginia and Pennsylvania from Chesapeake.

Small caps also extended this week's rebound, with the Russell 2000 index rising 1.3 percent, its third session in a row of more than 1 percent gains. It is up 3.5 percent in the last three sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24.5 points, or 0.15 percent, to 16,117.24, the S&P 500 gained 0.27 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,862.76 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.07 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,217.39.

Trading volume remained higher than average. About 9.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 8.4 billion average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

Netflix shares plunged 19.4 percent to $361.70, among the biggest drags on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 , a day after it said it signed up fewer video-streaming subscribers than forecast for the quarter.

After the bell, shares of Google fell 2.7 percent to $522 after third-quarter revenue growth at the technology company came in shy of Wall Street expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,180 to 903, for a 2.41-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,833 issues rose and 879 fell for a 2.09-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.