FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2019, file photo trader James MacGilvray works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EST on Monday, Dec. 30. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

US stocks move broadly lower to start holiday-shortened week

December 30, 2019 - 1:57 pm

Stocks closed broadly lower on Wall Street Monday, erasing some of the major indexes’ recent gains, though the market remains on track to end the year with its best performance since 2013.

The pullback ended a two-day winning streak by the S&P 500. The benchmark index has risen five straight weeks, notching multiple all-time highs along the way. It’s on track to end December with its fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Technology, communication services and health care stocks accounted for much of the selling Monday. Retailers and other companies that rely on consumer spending also fell.

Homebuilders fell after a report on pending U.S. home sales in November came in below analysts' expectations. Shares in utilities and real estate sector companies fared the best, ending with only tiny losses, as investors shifted assets to high-dividend stocks and other bond proxies.

“There could be a few big institutions out there that are taking some profits,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading & derivatives at Charles Schwab. “Big players can have a bigger influence on the market when the volumes are low.”

The S&P 500 dropped 18.73 points, or 0.6%, to 3,221.29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 183.12 points, or 0.6%, to 28,462.14. The Nasdaq composite lost 60.62 points, or 0.7%, to 8,945.99.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slid 4.88 points, or 0.3%, to 1,664.15.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.89% from 1.87% late Friday.

Despite the downbeat start to the holiday shortened week, the S&P 500 is on pace to finish the year 28.5% higher, which would make it the strongest annual gain for the market since 2013.

A truce in the 17-month 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. The central bank appears set to keep them low for the near future.

Still, as the market prepares to close out a strong year of gains, uncertainty remains over the final details of a “Phase 1” trade deal between Washington and Beijing, which U.S. officials say will be signed in early January. Details of the agreement have not been disclosed, and it's unclear how much impact it will have if the two sides are unable to resolve their remaining differences.

Hovnanian Enterprises led the slide in homebuilder shares Monday, falling 2.5%. The National Association of Realtors said that its pending home sales index, which measures the number of purchase contracts signed, rose 1.2% last month to 108.5. Analysts had expected a 1.4% gain, according to FactSet.

Axsome Therapeutics rose 1.8% after the pharmaceutical company reported encouraging results from a trial of its migraine treatment drug.

Lending Tree climbed 3% after analysts at Compass Point upgraded the online loan marketplace operator to “buy.”

Trading is expected to be muted this week as the holiday season continues with U.S. markets closing on Wednesday for New Year’s Day. Still, a couple of potentially market-moving economic reports are scheduled to for release this week.

Investors will get to mull over new data on U.S. consumer confidence and home prices Tuesday, and the latest snapshot of manufacturing on Friday. Meanwhile, the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate policy meeting are also due out on Friday.

Frederick said the latest data on manufacturing is probably the one that investors should pay attention to the most.

“While (manufacturing) only represents about 12% of the economy, it tends to be much more of a leading indicator versus the services sector,” he said. “And it’s been one of the things that’s been causing those out there who think we still might be seeing a recession at some point soon to worry.”

Coming off a four-week winning streak, benchmark U.S. crude slipped 4 cents to $61.68 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 28 cents to $68.44 per barrel.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.73 per gallon. Heating oil slipped a penny to $2.04 per gallon. Natural gas dropped 5 cents, or 2%, to $2.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The price of gold inched up 20 cents to $1,514.50 per ounce. Silver gained 6 cents to $17.91 per ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.83 per pound.

The dollar fell to 108.83 Japanese yen from 109.40 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1202 from $1.1186.

European stock indexes closed broadly lower. Germany's DAX fell 0.7%, while the CAC 40 in Paris slid 0.9%. In Britain, the FTSE 100 dropped 0.8%.

Major markets in Asia closed mostly lower.

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