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US STOCKS-Wall St flat, housing data falls short

Source: Reuters - Mon, 30 Dec 2013 04:09 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Rise in Nov.'s pending home contracts weaker than expected

* Cooper Tire falls after Apollo Tyres merger terminated

* Crocs jumps on Blackstone investment

* Trina Solar climbs after China solar plant deal

* Indexes: Dow up 0.05 pct, S&P off 0.08 pct, Nasdaq off 0.2 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday after the S&P 500 index ended its best two-week advance in five months and housing data was weaker-than-forecast.

The benchmark S&P 500 had risen 3.7 percent over the prior two weeks, the index's best fortnight since July. The gains came after mounting signs the economy was gaining steam, leading the Federal Reserve to announce it will scale back its stimulus.

Trading continued light during the holiday season. Markets will be closed on Wednesday for New Year's.

The S&P has soared 29 percent this year and is on pace for its best year since 1997, powered largely by the central bank's stimulus measures. The Dow has jumped 25.8 percent and the Nasdaq 37.7 percent this year.

"It's been quite a year and we just keep hearing people are rebalancing; all of these institutional investors that had allocations in equities that are overweight," said Janna Sampson, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index, based on contracts signed last month, rose by 0.2 percent last month, below expectations of a 1 percent rise.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.01 points or 0.05 percent, to 16,486.42, the S&P 500 lost 1.49 points or 0.08 percent, to 1,839.91 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 8.273 points or 0.2 percent, to 4,148.321.

The thin trading volume could make for greater volatility. "I suspect there are a lot of people out today, so we have those thin trading desks," said Sampson.

Walt Disney Co gained 2.6 percent to $76.31 as the best performer on both the Dow and S&P 500 after Guggenheim raised its rating on the media conglomerate to "buy" from "neutral and raised its target price to $87.

Cooper Tire & Rubber dropped 3.4 percent to $22.19 after the company said it was not going ahead with a $2.5 billion merger with India's Apollo Tyres Ltd.

Shares of Crocs Inc surged 14.5 percent to $15.26 following news that private equity firm Blackstone Group LP was investing $200 million for a 13 percent stake in the shoemaker.

Trina Solar climbed 7.7 percent to $14.16 after the company signed an agreement to develop a solar power plant in China.

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