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Conflicting signals halt winning streak

US stocks closed mostly lower yesterday as differing views on whether the market can build on recent gains stalled the S&amp;P 500&rsquo;s six-day winning streak.<br /><br />The Dow industrials eked out a small gain to set a fresh 13-month high as cautious statements on the economic outlook from several Fed officials underscored the belief that easy monetary policy will remain intact well into next year. <br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of conflicting signals as to whether we get a sharp year-end rally with money pouring in, or whether we start to see profit-taking as investors look ahead to a potential jobless recovery in 2010,&rdquo; said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average gained 20.03 points, or 0.20 per cent, to end at 10,246.97. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 Index shed 0.07 of a point, or 0.01 per cent, to 1,093.01. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 2.98 points, or 0.14 per cent, to close at 2,151.08.<br /><br />Shares of Dow component American Express Co&nbsp; rose 1.6 per cent to $39.68 after the company said credit card spending increased in October from September in another sign that the worst of the financial crisis may be over for the largest US credit-card company. <br /><br />Home builders&rsquo; shares took a hit, with the Dow Jones home construction index down 2 per cent after data from the National Association of Realtors showed home prices fell in the third quarter from year-ago levels in about 80 per cent of US cities.<br /><br />DR Horton fell 3.6 per cent to $11.69 and KB Home dropped 3.3 per cent to $14.68.<br /><br />Among financials, MBIA Inc&rsquo;s shares plummeted 26.7 per cent to $3.52 a day after the bond insurer posted a third-quarter loss. <br /><br />Regional bank Zions Bancorp tumbled 7.6 per cent to $13.26 and the KBW bank index fell 1.4 per cent.<br /><br />On the upside, Monsanto Co shares rose 5.2 per cent to $73.66 after the company said it had raised expectations for accelerated launches of new products. <br /><br />American International Group rose 3.9 per cent to $37.59 after ratings agency Moody&rsquo;s Investors Service said the insurer probably will be able to repay the government&rsquo;s bailout and much of its preferred equity stake. <br /><br />Shares of online travel agency Priceline.com jumped 17.6 per cent to $204.22 a day after the company reported earnings that beat forecasts. <br /><br />Volume was light on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1.07bn shares changing hands, below last year&rsquo;s estimated daily average of 1.49bn. <br />