US stocks finish flat as investors await data

US stocks finished mostly flat yesterday as investors paused following the best two-day run this year, with central bank meetings and a full load of US economic data looming.

Traders have bet that the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank will suggest further action to stimulate their economies is on the way when each meets later this week.

The sectors least sensitive to economic growth – telecoms, consumer staples and utilities – posted healthy gains, suggesting a cautious move to defensive plays.

Blue chips such as Wal-Mart Stores and AT&T hit new 52-week highs. Wal-Mart rose 0.6 per cent to end at $74.98 after hitting $75.24 earlier. AT&T added 0.8 per cent to close at $37.43 after hitting $37.69.

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 2.65 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 13,073.01 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index edged down just 0.67 of a point, or 0.05 per cent, to 1,385.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 12.25 points, or 0.41 per cent, to end at 2,945.84.