Wall St pauses after recent gains

US stocks trade mixed but mostly lower as investors digest meaning of recent highs.

US stocks were mixed but mostly lower as investors paused after the most recent string of gains left major indexes near record highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 11.30 points, or 0.07%, to 15,987.32 points. On Monday, the Dow rose above 16000 for the first time intraday, reaching a high of 16030.38 early in the session, before paring gains to close up 14 points, or 0.1%. The blue-chip index still finished at its fourth-straight record high, and 39th record of the year.

The S&P 500 index slipped 1.60 points, or 0.09%, to 1,789.93 points, with utilities and industrials shares leading declines in all 10 industry sectors.

The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 11.24, or 0.28%, to 3,937.83 points.

Strong gains from a couple of Dow components helped offset losses in the blue-chip index. JPMorgan Chase rose after The Wall Street Journal reported the banking giant agreed to a $13 billion settlement with the US Justice Department, ending several investigations and lawsuits aimed at soured mortgage bonds issued before the financial crisis.

Home Depot gained after the home-improvement retailer reported fiscal third-quarter earnings and revenue above analyst estimates and raised its full-year outlook.

"Looks like we have another digestive tone in the market today," said Bryan Piskorowski, head of markets and product strategy at Wells Fargo Advisors.

"Our position in this time frame is built around position squaring and rebalancing," Mr Piskorowski said.

The strength of the US market this year has helped increase investors' weightings toward US stocks, so he has been recommending clients rebalance their portfolios to get back to benchmark weightings.

David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds, said the 16000 level in the Dow and 1800 in the S&P 500 are psychologically key, and can boost investor sentiment regarding stocks.

"It's surprising, but a large number of people still think we are in a recession," said Mr Kelly.

The new highs in major US indexes "have the potential to change people's attitudes," Mr Kelly said. "The dam of uncertainty that has held money back is crumbling."

Mr Kelly advises investors "proceed, but proceed with caution," in trading US stocks. He said that while stocks are no longer cheap, they are still a better option than fixed income or holding cash.

Tuesday is a light day for economic data, but investors are looking forward to key releases on retail sales, retail inflation and existing-home sales later in the week. On Wednesday, investors will look for the minutes to the Fed's October policy meeting to gauge the strength of the US economy. Furthermore, a Senate banking committee panel is slated to vote on the nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve on Thursday.

"Investors are listless here, everyone is thinking of turkey already," said Uri Landesman, president of the $1.25 billion hedge fund Platinum Partners. "I don't sense a lot of aggressiveness or activity."

"It is hard to be bearish and fight the chart, but it is also hard to be bullish at these levels," Mr Landesman said, who has held a negative view on the market all year.

Recent lackluster economic data and dovish comments from Ms Yellen last week have fueled the belief that the Fed will maintain its accommodative monetary policy, including its $85 billion-a-month bond-purchasing program, for the foreseeable future. That in turn has helped underpin the market's rise to record highs.

But on Tuesday, a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development tempered investor enthusiasm after it said the uncertain future of US fiscal and central-bank policies poses a growing risk to a global economic recovery that has already been weakened by a slowdown in growth in many developing economies.

Separately, the OECD cut its 2014 growth forecasts for the UK and the euro zone and said that deflation risks for the euro area have risen.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury inched up to 2.706% from 2.678% late Monday.

In corporate news, Tesla Motors gained after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it will launch a formal investigation into recent fires that destroyed a few Model S electric cars, an inquiry started after a request from Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk. Mr Musk has maintained that his company's cars are the safest on the road.

Best Buy slid after fiscal third-quarter earnings and revenue topped estimates, but the consumer electronics retailer cautioned that it would be facing an increasingly promotional environment during the holiday season. Leading up to the results, the stock had nearly quadrupled year to date.

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.7%, pulling back from a 5½-year high reached in the previous session. Germany's DAX 30 index lost 0.3%, France's CAC 40 dropped 1.1% and the UK's FTSE 100 shed 0.4%.

The German ZEW sentiment survey showed that the economic-expectations indicator rose to a four-year high of 54.6 in November from 52.8 in October, but missed expectations of 55. Meanwhile, the current-conditions indicator slipped to 28.7 from October's 29.7, compared with expectations of a rise to 30.4.

The dollar gained some ground against the yen but edged lower against the euro.

December crude-oil futures gained 0.4% to $93.38 a barrel. Gold futures tacked on 0.2% to $1,274.50 an ounce.

Asian markets were mostly lower. China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2% after running up 5.2% over the past three sessions. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average slipped 0.3%.

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