* Financial sector set to fall for second day in a row
* Defensive utilities, real estate stocks outperform
* Dow down 0.01 pct, S&P up 0.01 pct, Nasdaq down 0.23 pct
(Updates to late afternoon)
By Lewis Krauskopf
Dec 29 Wall Street was little changed on
Thursday as bank share declines were countered by gains in
utilities and other defensive groups in quiet holiday trading as
traders looked to position for the new year.
U.S. equities have paused in recent days, after rallying in
the wake of Donald Trump's Nov 8 election as U.S. president as
investors bet on benefits from his plans to cut taxes and
regulations and introduce fresh economic stimulus.
The post-election surge has put the benchmark S&P 500 on
pace for a roughly 10 percent gain for the year, but has left
some market participants nervous about a potential correction.
"We are headed into the new year having seen the market post
one of the most dynamic, robust moves higher we've seen in quite
some time," said Peter Kenny, senior market strategist at Global
Markets Advisory Group in New York. "I don't think there is a
lot left in the tank for the bulls here."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.27 points, or
0.01 percent, to 19,832.41, the S&P 500 gained 0.14
points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,250.06 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 12.67 points, or 0.23 percent, to 5,425.88.
The Dow has yet to breach the 20,000 mark, after repeatedly
coming within 20 points of the milestone.
The S&P 500 financial index dropped 0.8 percent, the
worst-performing sector, but has still risen about 20 percent in
Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley
were down more than 1 percent each. Goldman Sachs
and JPMorgan weighed the most on the Dow.
Utilities and real-estate - which have
lagged since the election - led the way up on Thursday.
"What you're seeing is some of the investors looking at the
more recent losers and picking them up and rotating out of some
of the post-election winners," said Paul Nolte, portfolio
manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
A drop in U.S. exports last month pushed the country's trade
deficit in goods higher while the number of Americans filing for
unemployment benefits fell last week in a positive sign for the
labor market, reports showed.
Alan Lancz, president of investment advisory firm Alan B.
Lancz & Associates Inc in Toledo, Ohio, said the jobless claims
data was "right in line" and "corresponds with what we've had
the past week - nothing that will move the needle from the
standpoint of buyers getting enthused or sellers panicking out."
In corporate news, drug developer Cempra tumbled 57
percent after U.S. health regulators rejected its antibiotic.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a
1.35-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.29-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 63 new highs and 41 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York and
Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and