Stocks were mixed in a listless session yesterday as investors collected profits for a second straight day despite an unexpected drop in unemployment claims. The Dow Jones industrial...
NEW YORK — Stocks were mixed in a listless session yesterday as investors collected profits for a second straight day despite an unexpected drop in unemployment claims.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.89 to 10,800.30.
Microsoft, one of 30 Dow stocks, slipped 14 cents to close at $26.76 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, dropped 17 cents to $51.90.
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Broader stock indicators were narrowly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 0.10 at 1,213.55, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 1.34 to 2,178.34. Despite the lackluster trading session, both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq edged past their previous 3-1/2-year highs, reached Tuesday.
The market was heartened by the latest Labor Department report, which showed continued strength in the nation’s labor market. First-time jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 326,000 last week. Economists had expected claims to rise slightly to 335,000.
Crude-oil futures fell slightly one day after the bombings in Saudi Arabia raised new concerns about terrorism in the oil-rich Middle East. A barrel of light crude settled at $43.45, down 19 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Despite the good economic news, investors sold off large-cap stocks and booked profits before the year’s end. The major indexes were nearly flat most of the session, and trading was light as many investors took time off for New Year’s.
“Most of the big money left a week ago, and all you’re seeing now is a little speculation and some tax-planning moves,” said Will Gourd, investment adviser at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “But the economic data look good, energy prices are stabilizing, yesterday notwithstanding, and things look good for next week when everybody comes back.”
Even with two down days earlier this week and the Dow’s losses yesterday, analysts said the market was still in good shape to further its post-election gains in January, at least until first-quarter-earnings season in the middle of the month.
“I think you’ve got maybe another 3 or 4 percent (increase) to go yet in January,” said Russ Koesterich, U.S. equity strategist at State Street in Boston. “After that, you’ll see interest rates rising again and it could get tougher. But for now, we’re looking pretty good.”
Fannie Mae jumped 95 cents to $71.33 after it sold $5 billion in preferred stock to unnamed institutional investors, $1 billion more than expected. The gains will likely be used to offset massive losses expected as the embattled mortgage giant restates its earnings after its recent accounting scandals.