* Apple iPad probed for reports of excess heat; shares down
* Tiffany higher after bullish forecast
* U.S. housing permits jump to highest level since Oct 2008
* Dow off 0.5 pct, S&P off 0.4 pct, Nasdaq off 0.5 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks retreated from a near 4-year high on Tuesday on signs that indicated China's economy may be slowing.
Weighing on both the equities and commodities markets, China raised fuel prices for the second time in less than six weeks, while BHP Billiton Ltd , the world's largest mining company, said it saw signs of "flattening" iron-ore demand from the world's second-biggest economy.
But even with the S&P 500 up 12 percent for the year, market participants viewed the day's drop as a chance to take a breather before moving higher.
"Do I think we are due for a pullback? Yes. Do I think this is the start of a pullback? No," said Mike Shea, managing partner and trader at Direct Access Partners in New York.
"The news out of China caused everyone to look up and take a breath, but the sentiment hasn't changed. It's still bullish.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 67.28 points, or 0.51 percent, at 13,171.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 5.96 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,403.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 15.49 points, or 0.50 percent, at 3,062.83.
Before Tuesday, the S&P 500 index was at its highest point since May 2008 and about 10 percent below the record closing high of 1,565.15 set in October 2007.
The market has been showing resilience, shrugging off sluggish starts and building upward momentum later in the session to close higher.
Easing concerns about the euro zone's debt crisis and improving U.S. economic data have lifted the S&P 500 more than 11 percent for the year and over 27 percent from an October low.
Permits for U.S. homebuilding neared a 3-1/2 year high in February, even as groundbreaking activity slipped, the government said Tuesday, suggesting a nascent recovery in the sector was still on track.
Shares of Tiffany and Co jumped 6.6 percent to $73.19 after the jewelry chain forecast higher sales this year, helped by expansion in Asia and the Americas.
Adobe Systems Inc lost nearly 4.6 percent to $32.95 and was the worst percentage decliner in the Nasdaq 100. The maker of Photoshop and Acrobat software late Monday reported that quarterly revenue growth slowed, missing forecasts.
Apple shares dipped 0.3 percent to $599.36 after an influential U.S. consumer watchdog said it is investigating online reports that Apple Inc's new iPad throws off an unusually large amount of heat.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp shares hit an all-time high of $14.78 before the release of its highly anticipated movie, "The Hunger Games." The stock was up 2.7 percent at $14.64 in afternoon trading.