December 13, 2017
Monday, December 29, 2014

Wall Street little changed but S&P hits record

US stocks were little changed in thin trading today as the S&P 500 notched its latest record high, but gains were curbed when an early rally in energy prices lost momentum.

Equities have trended to the upside of late, buoyed by data showing an improving economy and the US Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates. After the S&P 500 gained nearly 6 percent over the prior eight sessions, it notched its 53rd record close of the year on Monday.

The S&P energy index advanced 0.3 percent, pulling back from a gain of more than 1 percent as Brent and US crude oil turned lower. Brent settled down $1.57 at $57.88 and US crude settled down $1.12 at $53.61 a barrel.

In contrast to the fall in oil prices, consumer discretionary names were among the day's best performers, up 0.7 percent. General Motors rose 2.6 percent to $34.60. The S&P 500 retail sector rose 0.8 percent as Macy's Inc advanced 1.8 percent to $65.22 and was up 1 percent to $312.04.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15.48 points, or 0.09 percent, to 18,038.23, the S&P 500 gained 1.8 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,090.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.05 points to 4,806.91.

Greek shares slid, hitting other southern European markets, after lawmakers rejected the government's candidate for president and set in train a snap election that could derail the nation's bailout programme.

Fears the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis could flare up again caused some investors to switch out of southern European "peripheral" equity markets in favour of "core" northern Europe. The French and German stock markets rose today.

The Greek result knocked assets in Spain and Italy, which narrowly escaped the sovereign debt crisis that led to Greece's 2010 bailout.

Spanish and Italian bond yields rose, pushing Madrid's IBEX stock market down 0.8 percent while Milan's FTSE MIB fell 1.2 percent.

However, German and French bond yields fell to record lows, while the Frankfurt DAX index rose 0.1 percent and the Paris CAC-40 index advanced 0.5 percent.

Britain's FTSE 100 also climbed 0.4 percent, helped by a 4.6 percent rise in Royal Mail after one of its main competitors, City Link, went into administration over Christmas.

Some traders are hoping the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce stronger economic stimulus measures next month to minimise any contagion from the Greek vote on Jan. 25.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks turned negative after the health ministry announced a suspected case of the deadly Ebola virus, spooking investors but boosting health-related shares.

The Nikkei benchmark fell 0.5 percent to close at 17,729.84 points, wiping out early gains inspired by last week's strong Wall Street performance.

The Nikkei is on track for a yearly rise of almost 9 percent as the weak yen and aggressive asset buying by the Bank of Japan have helped offset the country's disappointing economic performance.

In 2013 it climbed a massive 57 percent on the back of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's easy-money policies. Tuesday is the final trading day of 2014 for Japanese markets.

A man who returned to Japan from Sierra Leone on December 23 was suspected of contracting Ebola, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said. Test results are expected by tomorrow morning.

If confirmed, it would be the first case positive diagnosis in Asia.

Ebola-related shares soared on the news. Air filter manufacturer Airtech Japan Ltd jumped 14.5 percent and protective clothing maker Azearth Corp climbed 16.0 percent. Fujifilm Holdings Corp, which said in November it expected its influenza drug Avigan to be approved to treat Ebola as soon as the end of the year, gained 0.4 percent.

The broader Topix fell 0.2 percent to 1,424.67, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 fell 0.3 percent to 12,930.92.

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Tags:  Stocks  shares  FTSEurofirst  Nikkei  US  Dow Jones  

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