Lacklustre data and fears over Greece hurt US

THE S&P 500 erased earlier losses to close flat yesterday after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated the central bank might be ready for another round of stimulus.

Minutes from the 31 July to 1 August meeting suggested the Fed is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus “fairly soon” unless the economy improves considerably.

Stocks had spent most of the session in negative territory after weak export data from Japan and caution over Greece’s meetings this week with European Union officials gave investors reasons to pull back after the recent rally.

Among the most actively traded US stocks yesterday was Dell, down 5.4 per cent at $11.68 a day after the PC maker warned of a challenging second half and slashed its full-year earnings outlook. Following on the heels of Dell’s results, Hewlett-Packard slipped 1.1 per cent to $18.99 after the close as the world’s largest PC maker posted a third-quarter loss.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 30.82 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 13,172.76. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.32 of a point, or 0.02 per cent, to 1,413.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 6.41 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 3,073.67.

Toll Brothers shares rose to $33.68, their highest since February 2007, after the largest US luxury homebuilder reported a higher quarterly profit and a sharp jump in new orders. At the close, the stock was up 3.8 per cent at $33.01.

Volume was light with about 5.45bn shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, below the daily average of 6.62bn.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a ratio of 3 to 2.