Stocks Drift Between Gains, Losses

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Alexandra Scaggs

U.S. stocks ended a quiet Wednesday session little changed, while the S&P 500 made a small advance to another record close.

The S&P 500 index tacked on 0.10 point, less than 0.1%, to 2000.12, its 31st record this year. The index closed above 2000 for the first time Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 15.31 points, or 0.1%, to 17122.01. The Nasdaq Composite Index edged down 1.02 points, less than 0.1%, to 4569.62.

Stocks drifted between slight gains and losses for much of the session. Trading was the slowest for any full session this year, with the Dow trading in its third-narrowest range this year, and moving just 44 points between its high and low. The S&P 500 traded in its seventh-smallest range this year.

"Volumes are incredibly light," said Ian Winer, director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities. But after a dismal summer for trading, "people are just wondering whether that matters... it's less of a powerful [sentiment] indicator than it might have been in years past."

There was little economic news on the calendar, so investors instead eyed the latest corporate news and high- profile deals.

Shares of a handful of retailers were bolstered by strong quarterly reports. Retailers have struggled this year, with the SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund up 1.6% to the broader market's 8.2% advance.

"The industry has been under a dark cloud for so long," said Lawrence Creatura, who manages $702 million in the Federated Clover Small-Cap Value fund. "Expectations are practically subterranean... [but] even industries that are under pressure can be mispriced, and that seems to be where we're at with some retailers."

Express Inc. rallied 13% after its results exceeded Wall Street's forecasts, and it lifted its full-year forecast. Michaels Cos. jumped 8.2% after its sales were stronger than expected, and it raised its outlook for the year.

Tiffany Co. gained 1% after reporting strong results and lifted its projections for the year.

Corporate earnings growth and persistently low interest rates have helped support this year's advance in U.S. stocks, which has brought benchmarks to record levels.

Stocks have mostly recovered from a mid-July swoon sparked by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. In recent sessions, the S&P 500 has recouped all of its 3.9% loss and hit new highs, and the Dow has recovered a large part of its 4.5% decline. It closed Wednesday just 0.1% below its record high.

A rising level of deals activity has also helped support the market this year, say investors and strategists. Paul Karos, senior portfolio manager with Whitebox Mutual Funds, said he is buying shares of some companies that could attract activist investors' involvement.

"Deals activity is likely to continue," said Mr. Karos, who helps manage $100 million in the Whitebox Market Neutral Equity Fund. "So we're looking for names where there are strong fundamentals, and where there might be activist potential."

A deal for Burger King Worldwide to buy Tim Hortons Inc., backed by investor Warren Buffett, came under criticism. The deal would allow the hamburger chain to move its headquarters to Canada in a so-called tax inversion. Shares of Burger King fell 2.1%, and shares of Tim Hortons shed 1.7%.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group filed fresh financial results ahead of its initial public offering, which is expected next month. Yahoo Inc., which owns a part of the company, gained 1%.

Treasury prices continued to push higher, with the yield on the 10-year note remaining near its lowest level since June 2013. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell to 2.361%, its second-lowest level this year.

European stocks were mixed, with the Stoxx Europe 600 edging up 0.1%. Expectations for further easing from the European Central Bank have been building in the wake of continued weak economic data and remarks from ECB President Mario Draghi last week.

In commodity markets, crude-oil futures edged up less than 0.1% to $93.88 a barrel. Gold futures slipped 0.1% to $ 1,281.90 an ounce.

Write to Alexandra Scaggs at alexandra.scaggs@wsj.com


  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  08-27-141652ET
  Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


This article appears in: News Headlines

Referenced Stocks: EXPR , TIF , YHOO

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