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December 18, 2017
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wall St. ends flat, Dow ekes out record close

US stocks closed flat in a short session today as investors found few reasons to push major indexes to their sixth straight day of gains despite strength in biotechs and bullish labor market data.

While both the S&P 500 and Dow touched intraday records, and the Dow closed at a slight record, the day's moves were slight and volume was light with many market participants already out for the Christmas holiday.

In a session that ended three hours early, about 2.5 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data, well below the month-to-date average of 7.66 billion. Markets will reopen Friday.

Equities have been on a hot streak of late, with the Dow closing above 18,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday. The S&P 500 rose 5.5 percent over the past six sessions and has notched 51 closes this year, the most since 1995 and the fourth best in history.

Those gains have come on central bank assurances and improving economic data, a trend that continued with jobless claims on Wednesday. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, their fourth straight week of declines, and below the forecast of 290,000.

Biotechs were the big gainers of the day, with the Nasdaq Biotech index up 1.6 percent in a partial rebound from the drop of nearly 7 percent over the previous two sessions. Celgene Corp rose 3.3 percent to $109.60 while Gilead Sciences added 2 percent to $91.29.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.1 points, or 0.03 percent, to 18,030.27, the S&P 500 lost 0.29 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,081.88 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.05 points, or 0.17 percent, to 4,773.47.

Both the Dow and S&P closed out their sixth straight daily advance, the longest streak for the benchmark S&P since June.

Energy shares continued their recent weakness as crude oil CLc1 lost 3.5 percent to $55.15 per barrel and hovered near its lowest level since 2009. The S&P energy index fell 0.8 percent; Exxon Mobil lost 0.9 percent to $93.78 while ConocoPhillips slid 1.3 percent to $70.13.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,542 to 1,453, for a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,550 issues rose and 1,090 fell for a 1.42-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 78 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 96 new highs and 24 new lows.

In Europe, bid speculation drove up the shares of medical devices maker Smith & Nephew, allowing it to outpace sluggish European stock markets in a shortened session ahead of the Christmas break.

The 7.7 percent jump in Smith & Nephew, after Bloomberg News reported US rival Stryker was planning a takeover offer for it, allowed Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 index to end 0.2 percent higher at 6,609.93 points.

France's CAC ended down 0.4 percent as data showing another set of record unemployment figures in France weighed on the Paris market.

By contrast, data showed that British workers' productivity had a long-awaited improvement in the third quarter of this year, highlighting how Britain has managed to avoid the worst of the economic slump afflicting the euro zone.

Spain's IBEX equity index was flat, while the cash markets for both Milan and Frankfurt's DAX were closed.

The DAX is up 4 percent in 2014, beating a 2 percent dip on the FTSE 100 and a flat performance on France's CAC.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks rallied today after Wall Street hit a record closing-high on the back of data pointing to rapid momentum in the US economy, which boosted risk appetite and lent weight to last week's positive assessment by the Federal Reserve.

The Nikkei benchmark gained 1.2 percent in thin trade to 17,854.23, its highest close since Dec. 8 and its fifth straight day of gains. Japanese markets were closed on Tuesday for a public holiday.

Exporters performed strongly on the back of a weaker yen, which fell through the 120 mark against the dollar. Toyota Motor Corp gained 1.6 percent, while Panasonic added 1.5 percent.

The broader Topix added 0.9 percent to 1,426.02, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also gained 0.9 percent to 12,955.65.

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