Stocks finished flat in a thin, lackluster session Tuesday as investors took a breather following a strong rally in the previous week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 2.65 points, or 0.02 percent, to end at 12,291.35, after trading slightly higher for most of the session. BofA and JPMorgan led the blue-chip laggards.
The S&P 500 eked out a gain of 0.10 points, or 0.01 percent, to end at 1,265.43, logging its first five-day winning streak since mid-September. The Nasdaq gained 6.56 points, or 0.25 percent, to close at 2,625.20. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished near 22.
Among key S&P sectors, financials declined, while utilities gained.
“It’s a very light calendar [this week]…It’s still all about Europe and even in Europe it’s about Italy, so keep your eye on the euro and you can pretty much tell where everything else is going,” said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. “[European worries will] certainly continue into the first half [of 2012]…They haven’t solved anything.”
Investors have been hoping for a Santa Claus rally as the S&P remains slightly in positive territory for 2011.
On the economic front, home prices declined in most major citiesfor the second straight month in October according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence gained in Decemberto 64.5 from a downwardly revised 55.2 in November, according to the Conference Board. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 58.3.