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S&P 500 notches its fifth straight weekly gain on a quiet day for stocks

New York Stock Exchange
The facade of the New York Stock Exchange is shown.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Major U.S. stock indexes ended essentially flat Friday after a day of mostly listless trading. Even so, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed out the week with its fifth straight weekly gain.

The benchmark index squeaked out a tiny gain that was good enough for its 35th record high this year. The Dow Jones industrial average also notched a slight gain, bringing it to its 22nd record high of 2019. The Nasdaq composite closed with a modest loss, snapping its 11-day winning streak.

Investors drove up shares of stocks in defensive sectors, including household goods makers, real estate companies and utilities. Those gains were checked by losses in energy, financial and communication services stocks. Bond yields fell.

With two days of trading left in 2019, the market is on track for its best year since 2013.

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“Some of the selling today is just profit-taking,” said Ben Phillips, chief investment officer at EventShares. “People are just maybe checking out for the rest of the year and taking some profits on positions because there are a lot of things that are up meaningfully.”

The S&P 500 inched up 0.11 points, or less than 0.1%, to 3,240.02. It has notched a weekly gain 11 of the last 12 weeks.

The Dow rose 23.87 points, or 0.1%, to 28,645.26. The Nasdaq slipped 15.77 points, or 0.2%, to 9,006.62.

Smaller-company stocks took the brunt of the selling. The Russell 2000 index fell 8.64 points, or 0.5%, to 1,669.03.

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Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 1.87% from 1.90%.

A truce in the U.S.-China trade war and positive signs for the economy have helped keep investors in a buying mood. Fears about a possible recession have also faded since the summer after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times and signaled it will keep them low for a long time.

Still, as the market prepares to close out a strong year of gains next week, uncertainty remains over the final details of the Phase 1 trade deal and whether Washington and Beijing will be able to resolve differences that were not addressed by the initial pact. The U.S. presidential election could also drive volatility in the markets next year.

“If the trade deal really gets done, that’s improvement in sentiment, which drives markets and CEO confidence, and then you still have very easy money out there and the Fed doesn’t plan on changing that,“ Phillips said. “All those things combined suggest that equities should rise in the next 12 months, though maybe not as strong as 2019.“

Trading volume remained lighter than usual Friday.

General Mills rose 1.5% — one of the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 — as traders shifted assets into traditionally lower-risk stocks.

Investors also favored utilities and real estate stocks. American Water Works rose 0.9%. Kimco Realty gained 1.5%.

Several airlines fell. American Airlines Group was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, shedding 4.2%. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Air Group each lost 1.1%.

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Devon Energy led a slide in energy sector stocks, shedding 2.4%.

Michaels leaped 32.9% after the arts and crafts retailer hired an executive from Walmart to be its chief executive.

Oil prices rebounded from an early stumble. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 1 cent to settle at $61.72 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 24 cents to close at $68.16 a barrel.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.74 a gallon. Heating oil was flat at $2.05 a gallon. Natural gas slid 14 cents, or 5.9%, to $2.16 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The price of gold rose $3.70 to $1,518.10 an ounce. Silver fell 5 cents to $17.94 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.83 a pound.


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