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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Wall Street quiet after record run

In this November 22, 2013, file photo, Robert Oswald, right, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
In this November 22, 2013, file photo, Robert Oswald, right, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The US stock market paused yesterday, ending on a mixed note, after a string of records in recent weeks.

Investors had little company-specific news to digest, although the US and other world powers reached a deal to limit Iran's nuclear programme, an event that pushed down oil prices and energy stocks.

The slow day represented a pause in the market's strong run, capped by another milestone on Friday, when the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed above 1,800 for the first time.

Stocks have soared this year as a combination of solid corporate earnings, a strengthening economy and easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve have drawn investors to stocks.

Stocks have also gained because they offer an attractive alternative to bonds, where interest rates remain close to all-time lows.

Despite light trade, yesterday did feature another market milestone. The Nasdaq rose as high as 4,007.09, a level it has not seen since September 7, 2000, during the dot-com bubble. The index ended up 2.92 points, or 0.1%, at 3,994.57.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose eight points, or 0.1%, to 16,072.54. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2 points, or 0.1%, to 1,802.48.

The biggest drags on the S&P 500 were energy stocks. Sunday's deal with Iran was the first significant progress in years to curtail that country's nuclear ambitions.

It could reduce the risk of conflict, improve trade and boost global oil supplies by making it easier for Iran to sell its crude onto the global market. That could increase global supply and push oil prices lower in the long-term.

Oil fell 75 cents, or 0.8%, to 94.09 dollars. Energy companies Halliburton, Transocean and Schlumberger all fell 2% or more.

Even with yesterday's decline, S&P 500 has risen for seven straight weeks and is up 26% in 2013, its best performance in 15 years.

However, an increasing number of investors believe that stocks have run their course for 2013.

"I would like to see this market take a breather," said Jim Lauder, a fund manager for Wells Fargo Advantage Dow Jones Target Date Funds.

While the Nasdaq is flirting with territory it has not seen in 13 years, the index is still down roughly 25% from its all-time high of 5,048.62 that it set on March 10, 2000.

The index, although still technology heavy, is dominated by highly-profitable companies like Apple, Google and Amazon.

Trading was light yesterday and is expected to remain limited all week. Stock and bond markets are closed on Thursday because of the Thanksgiving holiday. On Friday, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will close early.

Approximately 2.98 billion shares traded hands yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange, below the 3.35 billion that is typically traded on an average day.

Investors will focus on Black Friday, when the holiday shopping season officially starts. Due to the lateness of Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping season is a week shorter than usual, and that could affect the amount of shopping people can do.


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