U.S. equities closed mostly flat on Friday ahead of the Christmas holiday, as the Dow Jones industrial average failed again to reach the psychologically important level of 20,000.
The Dow closed about 15 points higher, with UnitedHealth contributing the most gains. "This is the last full trading week of the year. The Dow has been flirting with 20,000 and what I think is happening is a pause to digest a massive move higher," said Adam Sarhan, CEO at 50 Park Investments. "The market doesn't go straight up. I think this market action is healthy."
Entering Friday's session, the blue-chips index was about 0.4 percent away from hitting 20,000, having come within 13 points of the level earlier this week.
"Santa needs to visit Wall Street in order for the Dow to get above 20,000. We know Santa is making his rounds, so if he doesn't visit today there's a very high likelihood he visits next week," Sarhan said.
The S&P 500 also closed 0.1 percent higher, with health care leading advancers and consumer discretionary the greatest laggard. Health care is the worst performing S&P sector for the year, having fallen more than 3 percent. "We have avoided the health care sector. Our work shows it earnings growth is trending down," said Chuck Self, CIO at iSectors.
The three major indexes posted slight weekly gains.