US stocks end flat as surging markets take a breath
US stocks ended a quiet session with slight moves overnight as investors found few reasons to keep pushing shares higher following a six-week advance, though the longer-term trend was still viewed as positive.
The benchmark index is up more than 6.4 per cent in 2013, putting both the S&P 500 and Dow industrials near multi-year highs. The S&P is less than 4 per cent from its all-time intraday high of 1576.09, hit in October 2007.
"This is still a market that looks terrific, but when you're up for six weeks in a row, everyone is going to want to take a pause going into the seventh week even if there is no bad news out there," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management in Chicago.
Volume was light, with about 4.812 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, well below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.
Wall Street was modestly lower throughout the session but regained some ground in the final hour of trading as Google Inc rebounded off earlier losses. Shares of the internet search giant dipped 0.4 per cent to $782.42, recovering from earlier declines of 1 per cent after the company said in a filing former chief executive Eric Schmidt is selling roughly 42 per cent of his stake in the company.
Also in the tech space, Apple Inc rose up 1 per cent to $479.93 after the New York Times reported the iPhone maker was experimenting with the design of a device similar to a wristwatch.
The Federal Reserve's vice-chair Janet Yellen, seen as a potential successor to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke next year, said the Fed is still aggressively stimulating an anemic US economic recovery that has failed to bring rapid progress on employment.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 21.81 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 13,971.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.92 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 1517.01. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.87 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 3192.00.
Upbeat US and Chinese data last week helped the S&P 500 extend its weekly winning streak to six. The index gained about 8 per cent over that period.
Equities have been strong performers lately and many investors have used any declines in the market as opportunities to buy.
"Everyone wants to buy on a dip in this market, but if you're on the sidelines right now, the decline we're seeing today just isn't the kind you would jump in on," Mr Kuby said.
President Barack Obama will describe his plan for spurring the economy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. He is expected to offer proposals for investment in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education.
Opposition has grown to the $24.4 billion buyout of Dell, the No. 3 personal computer maker, as three of the largest investors joined Southeastern Asset Management on Friday in raising objections. Dell said in a regulatory filing it had considered many strategic options before opting to go private in a buyout led by chief executive Michael Dell.
Dell shares hovered near $13.65, the buyout offer price.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc shares rose 2.7 per cent at $170.35 after it said longtime drug development partner Sanofi plans to boost its stake.
Moody's was one of the strongest percentage gainers on the S&P 500, rising 4.9 per cent to $45.49. Last week the stock plunged 22 per cent after the US government launched a civil lawsuit against the company. The sell-off marked the stock's worst week since October 2008.
About 53 per cent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower while slightly more Nasdaq-listed stocks closed in negative territory.