US stocks flat ahead of policy debate on tax

US stocks ended little changed after a lightly traded session yesterday as investors hedged bets before a policy debate aimed at heading off US tax hikes and spending cuts early next year.

Firmer economic data from China and delays to an installment of Greek aid also were trading day topics.

News that Chinese exports rose sharply in October, signalling the economy was strengthening, argued for buying riskier assets. The safe-haven US Treasury market was closed yesterday in observance of Veterans Day.

But stock market gains were limited, made tentative by concerns about the Eurozone and possible higher US taxes and spending cuts that could kick in early next year.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index remains up 10 per cent for 2012.

In Chicago, grain futures tumbled amid a wave of technical selling, with soybeans sinking to a 4-1/2-month low that nearly erased gains from this summer’s devastating drought.

Prices had already been under pressure after the US Department of Agriculture on Friday raised its estimate for US soybean production more than expected and increased its forecast for global inventories.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 0.23 point, or 0.00 per cent, at 12,815.16. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 0.15 point, or 0.01 per cent, at 1,380.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.62 point, or 0.02 per cent, at 2,904.25.

Overseas, a weekend report showing China’s export growth climbed to a five-month high added to recent data suggesting the country’s seven straight quarters of slowing economic growth have ended.