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Date published: 1/29/2013
AP Business Writer
U.S. stocks meandered between small gains and losses Monday, cooling off after a rally that had pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index above 1,500 for the first time since December 2007. Encouraging news about manufacturing provided an early boost, but stocks fell later after a report on the pace of home sales fell short of expectations.
The government said before trading began that orders for long-lasting goods rose in December by 4.6 percent, helped by a 10 percent gain in orders for new aircraft. The report was a sign of strength for the manufacturing sector, a crucial driver of growth.
Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar said separately that its fourth-quarter net income exceeded analysts' expectations, after adjusting for the cost of a soured deal to buy a Chinese maker of roofing supports for mines. Caterpillar said it took a big charge in the quarter because the Chinese company had misrepresented its finances.
Caterpillar Inc. said it expects growth in China to improve without regaining the levels seen in 2010 or 2011. The stock was the biggest gainer in the Dow Jones industrial average, closing up $1.87 at $97.45.
The Dow closed down 14.05 points, or 0.1 percent, at 13,881.93. The S&P 500 fell 2.78, or 0.2 percent, to 1,500.18. The Nasdaq composite index added 4.59, or 0.2 percent, to 3,154. The Dow and the S&P 500 are rapidly approaching all-time closing highs, reached on Oct. 9, 2007. The Dow is about 282 points below its high of 14,164.53; the S&P 500 is 65 points shy of its record of 1,565.