The benchmark S&P 500 turned nearly flat for the year after falling
almost 1 percent this week as many of the market's biggest trading
favorites lost their momentum.
"The decliners once again are the tech and small-cap names. The
decline is not as steep as it was earlier this week, but the
continued weakness we see in these sectors suggests that investors
are becoming more cautious as money continues to leave the stock
market," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at
Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A steep drop in Citigroup Inc <C.N> shares, which suffered their
biggest daily decline since November 2012, helped push the S&P 500
lower a day after the Federal Reserve rejected the bank's capital
plan. The S&P financial index <.SPSY> lost 0.6 percent and was the
But the S&P 500 managed to hold above the 1,840 level, which has
recently acted as support, as the end of the quarter approached and
money managers engaged in "window dressing," adjusting positions to
improve the look of their portfolios.
"The market has been given plenty of reasons to sharply sell off,
and it does not seem as though there is that spirit to do it.
Clearly, we are coming to the end of the quarter, and no one is
particularly interested in marking the book down," said Peter Kenny,
chief executive officer of Clearpool Group in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dipped 4.76 points or 0.03
percent, to end at 16,264.23. The S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 3.52 points or
0.19 percent, to close at 1,849.04. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC>
dropped 22.346 points or 0.54 percent, to finish at 4,151.232.
At the close, the S&P 500 was up just a fraction of a point for the
The Russell 2000 index <.TOY>, a widely use gauge for small-cap
stocks, fell 0.4 percent to 1,151.44.
Citigroup <C.N> tumbled 5.4 percent to $47.45 a day after the Fed
rejected the bank's plan to buy back $6.4 billion in shares and
boost dividends, saying that Citi wasn't sufficiently prepared to
handle a potential financial crisis. A source close to the matter
told Reuters that Citi officials had not expected the rejection.
The Fed also rejected Zions Bancorp's plan late on Wednesday. Shares
of Zions Bancorp <ZION.O> slid 1.2 percent to end at $29.83 on
Big tech names also dropped, including Google Inc <GOOG.O>, off 1.6
percent at $1,114.28, Microsoft <MSFT.O> down 1.1 percent at $39.36,
and Amazon.com <AMZN.O> down 1.4 percent at $338.47.
[to top of second column]
Data showed that the U.S. economy grew a bit faster than previously
estimated in the fourth quarter, while new claims for jobless
benefits dropped to a near four-month low last week. But contracts
to buy previously owned homes fell in February to their lowest level
since October 2011.
The United States and the European Union on Wednesday agreed to
prepare possibly tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia's
annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory.
While Western leaders had said earlier that they would hold off
on new sanctions unless Moscow takes further destabilizing actions
in the region — which Russian President Vladimir Putin last week
said he wasn't interested in doing — investors are concerned about
the potential fallout of a prolonged conflict.
Concerns about the effect of sanctions on Russia's energy sector and
global supplies helped push crude oil prices and the S&P energy
index <.SPNY> higher. In addition, Exxon Mobil Corp <XOM.N> gained
1.6 percent to $96.24 after Bank of America Merrill Lynch boosted
its rating on the stock to "buy." <O/R>
Volume of about 6.5 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges,
slightly below the 6.9 billion average so far this month, according
to data from BATS Global Markets.
Advancers outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a
ratio of about 8 to 7. On the Nasdaq, the opposite trend prevailed,
with nearly eight stocks falling for every five that rose.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.