Washington's budget wrangling and a slew of data gets March off to a busy start, as traders watch the Dow to see if it can take another run at record highs.
Stocks sold off into the close Thursday, after the Dow came within 15 points of its all-time closing high of 14,164. The Dow finished down 20 points at 14,054 but was still up 1.4 percent for the month of February. Month end index rebalancing drove stocks lower in late trading, traders said. The S&P 500 was off 1 point at 1514, and is up 1.1 percent for the month.
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Traders reported heavy activity in mini S&P futures right around the close. The Nasdaq, dragged down by Apple, fell 2 points to 3160, and was up 0.6 percent for the month. Stock futures traded lower in early evening trading.
"There's been a lot of mysterious market moves lately. Things have moved without any kind of discernible news attached," said Steve Massocca of Wedbush Securities. He pointed to a rapid 100 point run up in the Dow Wednesday.
But still stocks ended February with a gain, after two strong sessions this week. Historically, a positive January and February suggests a positive year for stocks, according to Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at Standard and Poor's Capital IQ. Since 1945, the S&P 500 has finished the year positively nearly 70 percent of the time when the first two months of the year show gains. The S&P is up 6.2 percent for the year so far.