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February 21. 2014 10:13PM

Wall Street dips, but S&P 500 is within sight of record high

NEW YORK (Reuters) — U.S. stocks slipped Friday on options-related trading, with the S&P 500 facing resistance as it flirts with its record high even as economic data continues to underwhelm.

Shares declined late in the session due in part to trades related to options expiration, according to market participants.

U.S. existing home sales fell more than expected in January and hit an 18 month-low as the combination of cold weather and a lack of housing stock sidelined potential buyers.

Traders have selectively dismissed weak economic data, which is being blamed on the extreme weather that has affected large swaths of the United States.

An index of homebuilder stocks rose 0.8 percent to hit a nine-month closing high.“The bigger picture theme is we continue to see economic reports that have been pretty underwhelming, but any disappointing data has been shrugged off and attributed to weather,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. The S&P 500 ended 0.66 percent below its record close of 1,848.38 set on Jan. 15.