* Financial sector falls for second day in a row
* Defensive utilities, real estate stocks outperform
* Cempra tumbles after FDA rejects antibiotic
* Indexes down: Dow 0.07 pct, S&P 0.03 pct, Nasdaq 0.12 pct
(Updates with close of U.S. markets)
By Lewis Krauskopf
Dec 29 Wall Street ended slightly lower on
Thursday, held down by bank shares in quiet holiday trading as
traders looked to position for the new year.
U.S. equities have stalled in recent days after rallying in
the wake of Donald Trump's Nov. 8 election as U.S. president.
Investors are betting on benefits from Trump's plans to cut
taxes and regulations and introduce fresh economic stimulus.
The post-election surge has put the benchmark S&P 500 on
pace for a roughly 10-percent gain for the year, but has left
some market participants nervous about a potential correction.
"We ran out of steam after the election rally. Now the
market is at fair value and now it is: 'What is going to come
next?'" said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at
Wells Fargo Investment Institute in St. Louis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.9 points, or
0.07 percent, to 19,819.78, the S&P 500 lost 0.66 points,
or 0.03 percent, to 2,249.26 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 6.47 points, or 0.12 percent, to 5,432.09.
The Dow has yet to breach the 20,000 mark after repeatedly
coming within 20 points of the milestone.
The S&P 500 financial index dropped 0.7 percent, the
worst-performing sector, but has still risen about 20 percent in
Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley
each fell at least 1 percent. Goldman Sachs and
JPMorgan weighed the most on the Dow.
U.S. Treasury yields fell across the curve as investors
bought safe-haven government debt after a strong seven-year note
Utilities and real-estate - which have
lagged since the election - were the top-gaining sectors on
"What you're seeing is some of the investors looking at the
more recent losers and picking them up and rotating out of some
of the post-election winners," said Paul Nolte, portfolio
manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
A drop in U.S. exports last month pushed the country's trade
deficit in goods higher while the number of Americans filing for
unemployment benefits fell last week in a positive sign for the
labor market, reports showed.
Alan Lancz, president of investment advisory firm Alan B.
Lancz & Associates Inc in Toledo, Ohio, said the jobless claims
data was "right in line" and "corresponds with what we've had
the past week - nothing that will move the needle from the
standpoint of buyers getting enthused or sellers panicking out."
In corporate news, drug developer Cempra tumbled 57
percent after U.S. health regulators rejected its antibiotic.
About 4.9 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges,
well below the 6.9 billion daily average over the last 20
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a
1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.03-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week high and 3 new lows; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 50 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York and
Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama
and Nick Zieminski)