Wall St little changed as energy pares gains

SHAFAQNA – U.S. stocks were little changed in a quiet session on Monday as a decline in oil prices weighed on the energy sector, although the S&P 500 was on track to notch yet another record high.

Equities have trended to the upside of late, buoyed by data showing an improving economy and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s commitment to take a “patient” approach toward raising interest rates. The S&P 500 has gained 5.9 percent over the prior seven sessions, notching its 52nd record close of the year on Friday.

The S&P energy index .SPNY lost 0.2 percent, after climbing more than 1 percent as Brent LCOc1 and U.S. crude oil CLc1 turned lower. Brent was last off 2.8 percent at $57.80 while WTI lost 2.6 percent to $53.30. [O/R]

In contrast to the fall in energy names, consumer discretionary names were among the day’s biggest gainers, with the sector .SPLRCD up 0.5 percent. General Motors (GM.N) rose 2.3 percent to $34.51 while retail names were also strong on the day. The S&P 500 retail sector .SPXRT rose 0.6 percent while Macy’s Inc (M.N) advanced 2 percent to $65.30 and (AMZN.O) was up 0.7 percent to $311.30.

“The nearer-term picture is, consumers are enjoying lower gas prices, it’s almost as if it is an alleviation of taxes,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“Someone is getting hurt in this while the consumer is benefiting, and at some point it could come back to bite the market and the economy.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 9.51 points, or 0.05 percent, to 18,044.2, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 2.18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,090.95 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 4.14 points, or 0.09 percent, to 4,802.72.

The speed and scale of the rally could limit upside, especially in the final trading week of the year, when many market participants are out on holiday and catalysts are limited. Volume is expected to remain light, which could exacerbate volatility. The stock market will be closed on Thursday for New Year’s Day.

Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) rose 2.7 percent to $96.36 as one of the S&P500’s biggest percentage gainers after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to “overweight” from “equal-weight.”

LiveDeal Inc (LIVE.O) jumped 18.5 percent to $3.90 on volume of 9.6 million shares, many times its 50-day average of about 455,000 shares and on track for its most active day since May 28. The move came after the company reported its 2014 results.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,708 to 1,351, for a 1.26-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,366 issues fell and 1,334 advanced for a 1.02-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 was posting 65 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the NasdaqComposite was recording 143 new highs and 35 new lows.

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