LONDON – U.S. stocks fluctuated between gains and losses, after benchmark indexes rallied to all-time highs yesterday amid optimism over the economic recovery.
Twitter Inc. slid 5.7 percent after Macquarie Group Ltd. downgraded the stock. Textron Inc. rose 1.6 percent after the manufacturer of Cessna aircraft said it will buy Beechcraft Corp. for $1.4 billion. FirstEnergy Corp. added 1.1 percent after the utility company was upgraded at Wells Fargo & Co. to outperform from market perform.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped less than 0.1 percent to 1,841.63 at 11:41 a.m. in New York. The Dow fell less than 1 point to 16,479.49. Both measures are poised for their second weekly gain. Volume has been lower-than-average amid the Christmas holiday this week. Trading today in S&P 500-listed stocks was 40 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day.
“A year-end rally like this is not usual, but we have to keep in mind trading volumes are light and corporate news is certainly sparse this week,” Robert Landry, the San Antonio-based executive director and money manager at USAA Investments, said by telephone. His firm oversees about $59 billion. “You can’t read too much into the market’s move. It’s somewhat of a Santa Claus rally and perhaps that’s attributed to some portfolios managers in the office making some year-end moves.”
The S&P 500’s retreat today halts a four-day rally fueled by improving economic data. A Labor Department report yesterday showed that jobless claims declined by more than forecast, boosting optimism in the world’s largest economy. There are no economic reports scheduled for today.
The benchmark equity index has advanced 29 percent in 2013, putting it on course for its biggest annual rally since 1997. The S&P 500 has gained 2 percent so far this month. December has been the second-best month for U.S. equity returns, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that starts in 1928. The average gain for the month is 1.5 percent, more than twice the overall monthly mean of 0.6 percent. The last December retreat for the S&P 500 was in 2007.
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