S&P, Dow at record highs in thin trade

The S&P 500 and the Dow industrials have slipped in a shortened, pre-Christmas session, as investors paused after a record-setting rally fuelled by improving US-China trade relations that has put the market on course for its best year since 2013.

The Nasdaq eked out a gain, helped by a rise in Advanced Micro Devices shares, to register an all-time high close for a ninth straight session. All three major indexes posted record closes on Monday.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is set for its biggest annual percentage gain since 2013, with the market's mood a sharp contrast with Christmas Eve a year ago, which was the tail end of a severe swoon in which the S&P 500 came within a hair of confirming a bear market.

"It's a quiet market after a week of gains," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey. "Compared with last year at the same time, it's a major relief as we go into the period of much lower volume."

December 24, 2018, turned out to be a recent closing low for the S&P 500, with US stocks beginning a rally that would carry through into 2019.

The benchmark S&P 500 is up over 28 per cent so far this year, fuelled by optimism over improving US-China trade relations, interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and better than feared economic data and corporate profits.

"After this strong run, day after day of the market gaining, it stands to reason that ... you're going to see the market flat or even some profit taking," Krosby said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday fell 36.08 points, or 0.13 per cent, to 28,515.45; the S&P 500 lost 0.63 point, or 0.02 per cent, to 3,223.38; and the Nasdaq Composite added 7.24 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 8,952.88.

Industrials lagged the most among S&P 500 sectors while real estate was the top gainer.

Volumes are expected to be thin this week as traders settle in for the holidays. The main US stock exchanges closed at 1pm local time on Tuesday and remain shut on Wednesday.

Only roughly 2.8 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges on Tuesday, compared with the nearly 7 billion daily average over the past 20 sessions.

In company news, shares of chip company AMD rose 2.4 per cent after RBC raised its price target.

Uber Technologies shares rose 0.4 per cent after co-founder Travis Kalanick severed his last ties with the ride-services company.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.35-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.49-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 91 new highs and 28 new lows.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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