Caution keeps volumes low and Wall St flat

US stocks drifted in light volume yesterday, ending little changed, as investors remained cautious after the S&P 500 index briefly hit its highest intraday level since November 2007.

The S&P 500 was buoyed by General Electric after cable company Comcast said it will buy from GE the the part of NBCUniversal it didn’t already own for $16.7bn. Comcast’s stock hit the highest since 1999 before closing up 3 per cent at $40.13 and GE gained 3.6 per cent to $23.39.

The S&P 500 is up 6.6 per cent so far this year, partly due to stronger-than-expected corporate earnings and a better economic outlook. The Dow industrials is about 1 per cent away from an all-time intraday high, reached in October 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 35.79 points or 0.26 per cent, to 13,982.91, the S&P 500 gained 0.9 point or 0.06 per cent, to 1,520.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 10.38 points or 0.33 per cent, to 3,196.88. The S&P gained 12 per cent in the first three months of 2012.

Deere & Co, the world’s largest farm equipment maker, forecast a modest increase in sales this year despite the prospect of the biggest corn crop in US history. The forecast fell short of analysts’ expectations, sending shares of Deere down 3.5 per cent to $90.68.

In extended trading, shares of technology bellwether Cisco Systems fell 2 per cent after it posted results.

Dr Pepper Snapple fell 5.8 per cent to $42.69 after it forecast profit for the current year below analysts’ estimates.

Cliffs Natural Resources lost a fifth of its market value a day after the miner reported a quarterly loss and slashed its dividend by 76 per cent.

According to the latest Thomson Reuters data, of the 364 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 70.3 per cent have exceeded analysts' expectations.