Stocks fell moderately Wednesday as investors found little reason to extend a year-end buying spree. The Dow Jones industrial average fell...

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NEW YORK — Stocks fell moderately Wednesday as investors found little reason to extend a year-end buying spree.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 45.95 to 10,810.91.


Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 6 cents to close at $27.75 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 8 cents to $69.65.


Broader stock indicators were lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 6.33 to 1,257.37, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.75 to 2,252.01.


The market is more than a month into a fourth-quarter rally that has started to feel halfhearted, with strong early gains in many sessions being whittled away by afternoon selling.


“I don’t see a lot of people, just based on the volume we’ve had, betting on a bull market,” said Ned Riley, chief investment officer of Riley Asset Management in Boston.


Surprisingly strong weekly inventory numbers from the Department of Energy sent crude-oil futures lower.


A barrel of light crude was quoted at $59.21, down 73 cents, in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


This is a market where neither the bulls nor the bears have the courage of their convictions, said John Caldwell, chief investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group, part of Cleveland-based KeyCorp.


“This is very much a shoot first and ask questions later kind of market,” he said.


Caldwell is one of many strategists who doubted the strength and depth of stocks’ fourth-quarter rally. One of their arguments: If this rally is just a case of Wall Street wish fulfillment, it could vanish next month.


Bear Stearns’ strategy team said in a note this week, “The market is overbought, in our view, and, amidst a prolonged Fed tightening phase, it is difficult to see how leading indicators could continue to accelerate from here. If anything, it appears the market is setting itself up for a difficult start to the New Year.”


The rally, Bear strategists said, “has more to do with sentiment than fundamentals.”