The Dow Jones Industrial Average was nearly unchanged, slipping less than 0.1% to 17609. The S&P 500 lost one point, less than 0.1%, to 2039, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained five points, or 0.1%, to 4665.
Wednesday was a slow day for U.S. economic news, and without major reports to give the market direction, strategists said investors were pausing to re-evaluate after the latest rally to all-time highs. Stocks have recently recovered from a sharp pullback in mid-September and early October. For the year, the Dow has hit 24 closing records and the S&P has closed at 40 highs.
”We’ve been making all-time high after all-time high, so it’s important for the market to find stability along the course of the rally,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist for J.P. Morgan Funds, which manages $500 billion. “Sometimes that entails a modest pullback.”
Individual-stock news took more of the spotlight than economic factors, traders said. Consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.3%, supported by gains in retailers and home builders amid an ongoing raft of earnings reports.
”It’s more active than the past two days, but. [it’s] stock-specific activity,” said Brian Fenske, head of sales trading at brokerage ITG.
Fossil Group Inc. rose 7.9% after its per-share earnings and revenue beat forecasts.
Macy’s Inc. rose 4.1%, despite posting disappointing sales in the third quarter and cut its earnings and sales view for the year. Per-share earnings rose to 61 cents in the latest quarter from 47 cents a year ago, beating analyst expectations.
Beazer Homes USA Inc. gained 0.2% after it beat analyst forecasts for earnings and revenue, and posted its first full fiscal year of profitability since 2006.
Broadly, recent market moves have been mild, especially when compared to a bout of volatility in October. The Dow has gained for the last six trading sessions in a row, notching a total gain of 1.4%. That compares to the 13 times in October, when the Dow moved by 1% or more in either direction in a single day.
”There’s an increasing concern that [Europe’s] economic problems will spread,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
Meanwhile, financial stocks were among the steepest decliners, as six banks— HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, UBS AG , Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase Co. and Bank of America Corp. —reached a settlement to resolve allegations that they had worked together to try to manipulate the foreign-exchange market to boost their profits. The banks agreed to pay a total of about $4.2 billion to U.S., British and Swiss regulators.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.347%. In commodity markets, crude-oil futures fell 0.4% to $77.62 a barrel. Gold futures added slipped 0.1% to $1162.00 an ounce.
In deal news, BB&T Corp. agreed to buy Susquehanna Bancshares Inc.
for about $2.5 billion in cash and stock. Shares of BB&T fell 2%, while shares of Susquehanna surged 33%.