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Stocks fall as investors turn cautious after records

Stocks closed modestly lower on Wall Street on Tuesday.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 0.2%, the benchmark index’s first decline in four days.
(Bryan R. Smith / AFP / Getty Images)

Stocks closed modestly lower on Wall Street on Tuesday as investors turned cautious a day after major indexes closed at their latest record highs.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 0.2%, the benchmark index’s first decline in four days. Investors shifted money away from technology companies, which have been among the biggest winners since the pandemic began. Industrial and financial stocks also fell broadly. Those losses outweighed gains in healthcare stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending.

Small-company stocks, which have been the biggest gainers this month, fell more than the rest of the market, pulling the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies 1.8% lower. The index is still on track to end the month 7.7% higher, more than twice the growth of the S&P 500.

“That segment is probably due for a little bit of a pullback given its outperformance,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

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The S&P 500 fell 8.32 points to 3,727.04. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 68.30 points, or 0.2%, to 30,335.67. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slid 49.20 points, or 0.4%, to 12,850.22. The Russell 2000 gave up 36.89 points to 1,959.36.

The market’s pullback follows a strong, record-shattering run on Wall Street in recent weeks amid optimism that COVID-19 vaccinations will pave the way in coming months for the economy to escape from the pandemic’s grip. With two days of trading left in 2020, the S&P 500 is up 15.4% this year, while the Nasdaq is up 43.2%.

Wall Street set fresh records Monday after President Trump signed a wide-ranging spending bill that includes $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and reams of other legislation on taxes, energy, education and healthcare. Investors hope that the measures will help tide the economy over until more people get vaccinations and help it through its pandemic-induced slump.

“We’re kind of seeing the same thing we’ve been seeing, the dichotomy between where the financial markets are and where the actual economy is,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management.

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The recent round of aid from Washington was mostly expected, and it would have taken a much bigger package to really make markets jump, he said.

The only other pending set of business from Washington is whether Senate Republicans will pass Trump’s push to get $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans instead of the current $600. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked Democrats’ push to immediately bring the president’s demandup for a vote, saying the chamber would “begin a process” to address the issue.

Treasury yields moved higher Tuesday, a sign of confidence in the economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.93% from 0.92% late Monday.

Trading has been thin as a tumultuous 2020 draws to a close. The market will be closed Friday for New Year’s Day.

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European markets mostly rose. The French CAC 40 rose 0.4%, while the FTSE 100 was up 1.5%. The German DAX fell 0.2%.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 jumped 2.7% to 27,568.15, the first time it has traded above 27,000 since August 1990, according to FactSet. The market hit its all-time peak close of 38,915.87 on Dec. 29, 1989.


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