Belfast Telegraph

Major US stock indexes close slightly lower again

A day of quiet trading on Wall Street ended with major US stock indexes posting slight losses for the second day in a row.

Banks and energy companies led the slide, while high-dividend stocks like utilities, real estate investment trusts and phone companies rose as bond yields fell. The price of US crude oil closed lower.

Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market, nudging the Russell 2000 slightly higher.

Trading was light ahead of the New Year's Day holiday.

"The market is just taking a breather here," said Jeff Zipper, managing director of investments for the Private Client Reserve of US Bank. "We moved so much in the month of November, there may be some profit-taking, maybe positioning for the first quarter."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.90 points, or 0.1%, to 19,819.78, the Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.66 points, or 0.03%, to 2,249.26, and the Nasdaq composite lost 6.47 points, or 0.1%, to 5,432.09.

The Russell 2000, which tracks small companies, added 2.35, or 0.2%, at 1,363.18.

The major stock market indexes eked out small gains in early trading but by mid morning, they drifted mostly lower and remained in the red the rest of the day.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.47% from 2.51% late on Wednesday.

More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sears jumped 10% after the struggling retailer said it had secured a new line of credit. The stock added 82 cents to 9 dollars.

Newmont Mining climbed 7.6%, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. The stock added 2.49 dollars to 35.27 dollars.

Investors got some favourable economic data from the Labour Department, which reported that fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a near two-year trend that suggests a solid job market.

Weekly requests for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. Over the past year, the number of people collecting benefits has fallen almost 5% to 2.1 million.

Benchmark US crude fell 29 cents to close at 53.77 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to close at 56.14 dollars a barrel in London.

Markets overseas were mixed. Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 both closed 0.2% lower, but the UK's FTSE 100 ended the day with its second record-close in two days, trading 0.2% higher at 7,120.26 points.

British stocks have benefited from a decline in the value of the pound against other world currencies, which tends to drive up earnings for the multinationals and energy companies that dominate the index.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.3%, while South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2%.

In other energy trading, wholesale petrol added a penny to 1.68 dollars a gallon and heating oil held steady at 1.70 dollars a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 10 cents, or 2.5%, to 3.80 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet.

The price of gold rose 17.20 dollars, or 1.5%, to 1,158.10 dollars an ounce, silver added 18 cents to 16.22 dollars an ounce, and copper fell a penny to 2.49 dollars a pound.

In currency trading, the dollar fell to 116.65 yen from 117.19 yen late on Wednesday. The euro fell to 1.0485 dollars from 1.0407 dollars.