By Riva Gold and Amrith Ramkumar
In a listless day of trading for U.S. stocks, the S&P 500 wavered between slight gains and losses before narrowly notching its longest losing streak since March.
As the index fell for a fourth straight session, analysts said investors were growing nervous about markets trading near record highs as well as uncertainty about how political developments will affect stocks.
The S&P 500 has added 17% this year, on pace for its biggest annual gain since 2013.
“After a great year, people who are looking forward to next year and seeing more challenges are attempting to position ahead of that,” said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at JonesTrading.
The S&P 500 inched down 0.30 point, or less than 0.1%, to 2629.27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 39.73 points, or 0.2%, to 24140.91, and the Nasdaq Composite added 14.16 points, or 0.2%, to 6776.38.
Shares of energy firms in the S&P 500 shed 1.3%, falling alongside oil prices after government data showed a steep rise in U.S. fuel inventories during the week ended Dec. 1.
Technology stocks continued to rebound, rising 0.8% in the S&P 500. The sector is still down 2% over the past month, as investors sold some of the best-performing stocks of the year and favored shares of companies expected to benefit the most from tax cuts.
News out of Washington has contributed to the market’s pullback this week, investors and analysts said. A dispute among House Republicans over their year-end strategy forced GOP leaders to delay a vote on a stopgap spending bill Tuesday, just a few days before a partial government shutdown.
Some pointed to uncertainty around Republicans’ attempt to reconcile the Senate’s version of the tax bill with the House’s and U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as other sources of investor anxiety.
Investors picked up assets they consider to be relatively safe. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 2.330%, from 2.356% Tuesday. Yields fall as prices rise.
Home Depot shares declined $2.05, or 1.1%, to $180.80 following the home-improvement retailer’s announcement that it would launch a $15 billion share-buyback program and accelerate investments in its business.
Shares of DaVita surged 8.27, or 14%, to 69.20 after UnitedHealth Group said it would buy DaVita’s physician group for about $4.9 billion in cash.
Brown-Forman shares rose 4.04, or 6.5%, to 65.85 after the owner of brands including Jack Daniel’s whiskey beat analyst expectations for earnings in the latest quarter and boosted its full-year earnings outlook.
The global economy has improved more than expected this year and corporate earnings have picked up, helping support major stock indexes despite elevated valuations.
Data Wednesday showed private payrolls grew by 190,000 in November and U.S. productivity surged in the third quarter while labor costs fell further, another sign of subdued inflation pressures despite a sturdy economy.
Still, some investors have begun to question how long such a backdrop can continue to boost stocks.
“It’s usually when you can’t see any clouds, that you need to be worried about rain,” said Abhay Deshpande, chief investment officer at Centerstone Investors.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average had its worst day since March, falling 2% as the yen strengthened and mining stocks declined. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index shed 2.1%, its biggest drop in 13 months, weighed down by losses in technology shares.
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