* Services sector growth slightly slower than forecast
* Transocean shares rise after results
* Dow off 0.12 pct, S&P down 0.12 pct, Nasdaq off 0.16 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Nov 5 U.S. stocks were flat to
slightly lower in thin trading on Monday a day before the
presidential election as traders were reluctant to place bets
until the winner of the very close race is known.
Shares of Apple rose, helping the Nasdaq composite index,
after it announced brisk sales of its new iPads.
Democratic President Barack Obama and his challenger,
Republican Mitt Romney, dashed through a handful of swing
states, stumping for votes on the last day of the race for the
Investors were also monitoring congressional races to gauge
how the United States will deal with the $600 billion in
spending cuts and tax hikes that could kick in next year and
severely damage the economy.
On election eve traders waited before placing bets on
sectors likely to benefit under the election's victor.
"In terms of the election, it is hard to predict ... how it
is going to turn out and it's hard to predict how the market is
going to respond to it," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment
strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.
"We are just going to drift between now and tomorrow and
maybe Wednesday we can pick up some direction based on the
Leading world economies pressed the United States on Sunday
to act decisively to avert the fiscal cliff, calling it the
biggest short-term threat to global growth.
The market's reaction to data showing the pace of growth in
the U.S. services sector slowed modestly in October was muted.
Data from the Institute for Supply Management showed new orders
slipped, but employment improved.
Market participants may also have to deal with interpreting
economic data which could soon start to show the impact of
Hurricane Sandy on the economy after battering the U.S.
A week after Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City and the
surrounding area, close to 2 million people still have no power
as cold weather sets in. On Sunday 30,000 to 40,000 people in
New York City were in need of shelter.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 15.17
points, or 0.12 percent, at 13,077.99. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index shed 1.68 points, or 0.12 percent, at 1,412.52. The
Nasdaq Composite Index added 4.86 points, or 0.16
percent, at 2,986.99.
Apple Inc rose 1.4 percent to $584.74 after the
company said it had sold over 3 million of its new iPads over
the first three days.
Transocean Ltd reported a
higher-than-expected adjusted profit for the third quarter and
its shares were up 4.7 percent at $48.23.
Stifel Financial Corp shares gained 1.6 percent to
$32.42. KBW Inc climbed 7 percent to $17.44 after Stifel
said it would buy the smaller rival in a cash-and-stock deal
valued at about $575 million to form an investment bank focused
on the financial services industry.
A private survey of China's growing services sector slipped
in October, with weaker-than-expected new orders injecting a
note of caution after three previous PMI surveys for October
showed the world's second-largest economy regaining momentum.
The euro zone debt crisis also remained an issue for
investors, as a senior European Union official said a deal to
keep near-bankrupt Greece afloat by providing more bailout money
is unlikely to be struck next week when euro zone finance
ministers meet in Brussels.