New York Report: Wall St falls for fourth trading session in a row

THE Dow and the S&P 500 finished lower for the fourth consecutive session yesterday after investors found few reasons to make big moves, with uncertainty remaining over when the Federal Reserve will start to slow its stimulus.

Stocks fell for much of the session, but edged closer to break-even levels in the last hour of trading. Still, the losses were broad, with eight of the 10 S&P 500 sector indexes ending lower for the day on concerns that the market’s recent rally to record levels was not justified.

About 60 per cent of the shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower for the day, while 56 per cent of Nasdaq-listed stocks closed down.

Many market participants expect the Fed to announce a cut in its $85bn in monthly bond purchases in March, but recent economic data increased expectations that the move may come sooner. The Fed has said it would slow its stimulus program when certain economic measures meet its targets, including a decline in the US unemployment rate. The ADP National Employment Report showed private-sector employers added 215,000 jobs in November, more than expected. This was the latest in a string of reports suggesting that the economy's outlook was brightening.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 24.85 points, or 0.16 per cent, to end at 15,889.77. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 2.34 points, or 0.13 per cent, to finish at 1,792.81. But the Nasdaq Composite Index inched up just 0.80 of a point, or 0.02 per cent, to close at 4,038.00.