US stocks fall in early trade

US stocks fell in early trade Thursday as the market took a breather from the aggressive buying that has characterized most of 2013 so far.

About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 51.11 points (0.37 percent) lower at 13,935.41.

The S&P 500 index dropped 2.60 points (0.17 percent) to 1,509.52, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 6.96 points (0.22 percent) to 3,161.52.

Thursday's trading followed a middling session Wednesday where markets concluded the day little-changed.

The S&P 500 is already up six percent this year "and there has been a litany of warnings from pundits that the market is due for a pullback," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

"The latter view, however, has often been couched with the acknowledgment that there is a lot of frustrated money on the sidelines waiting to buy on weakness," O'Hare added.

New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits slipped last week to 366,000, 5,000 less than the previous week's revised number. A note from Charles Schwab & Co. characterized the result as a slightly smaller decline than expected.

Credit card company Visa slipped 1.4 percent despite reporting better profits than expected and announcing the authorization of a new share repurchase program.

Media giant News Corp. lost 2.2 percent after it cut its profit forecasts because of declining ratings for some of its television programs.

Sprint Nextel fell 0.7 percent after reporting a narrower loss than analysts expected.

Health insurer Cigna jumped 0.8 percent after besting expectations and raising its outlook for 2013 for consolidated adjusted income.

Utility Exelon reported lower profits and cut its dividend, but still mustered a 2.8 percent gain.

US retailers reported January sales. Target fell by 0.1 percent, despite besting analyst expectations. Other leading retailers, including Macy's (up 2.6 percent) and Costco (up 0.3 percent) rose on the reports.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.96 from 1.97 late Wednesday, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury dropped to 3.17 percent from 3.18 late Wednesday. Bond prices and yields move inversely.