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US STOCKS-Wall St trades flat; housing data falls short

Source: Reuters - Mon, 30 Dec 2013 06:52 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Rise in November pending home sales weaker than expected

* Cooper Tire falls after Apollo Tyres merger terminated

* Crocs stock jumps on Blackstone investment

* Trina Solar climbs after China solar plant deal

* Dow flat, S&P 500 off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.1 pct

By Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks barely moved on Monday as the S&P 500 index's advance stalled after its best two-week gain in five months last week, with weaker-than-forecast housing data and light trading volume keeping upward momentum in check.

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

The S&P 500 has soared 29.1 percent this year and is on track 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 has surged 37.7 percent this year.

"We certainly have had quite an impressive year, and obviously, a lot of that was helped by the central bank stimulus. Given what we've seen so far, the path of least resistance has been to go higher," said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

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

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.53 of a point, or unchanged on a percentage basis, to 16,477.88. The S&P 500 slipped 1.98 points or 0.11 percent, to 1,839.42. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.11 points or 0.09 percent, to 4,152.48.

Volume continued to be light during the holiday season. The U.S. stock market will be closed on Wednesday for New Year's Day.

"I wish I had extended my vacation, is the only thing going through my head because volume is just anemic," said Sam Ginzburg, head of trading at First New York Securities in New York. He added that the thin holiday volume could inject "a little bit of added volatility in the tape."

Twitter Inc, the most actively traded New York Stock Exchange-listed company by midday, continued its dive on Monday, falling 4.4 percent to $61 per share. Monday's drop followed a 13 percent slide from its all-time high closing stock price of $73.31 on Thursday.

Walt Disney Co gained 2.4 percent to $76.14 as the best performer on both the Dow and the 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 Co rose 3.7 percent to $23.80 - recovering from earlier losses - 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 shot up 21.2 percent to $16.16 following news that private equity firm Blackstone Group LP was investing $200 million in a 13 percent stake in the shoemaker.

Trina Solar Ltd climbed 7.2 percent to $14.09 after the company signed an agreement to develop a solar power plant in China.

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