Wall St almost flat as volumes remain down

THE Standard & Poor’s 500 just barely extended a streak of gains to a fourth day yesterday, ending above 1,400 in another thinly traded session.

Expectations for stimulus from the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve triggered the recent gains, but investors found little reason to keep pushing stocks higher after driving the market to three-month highs.

The three major US stock indexes opened lower but recovered at midday, led by consumer staples and health care. Both are defensive plays, an indication that investors are keeping their enthusiasm in check.

In a sign of that weakening demand, McDonald’s fell 1.7 per cent to $87.53 after reporting flat same-store sales in July, the worst performance for the Dow component in more than nine years. The Bank of England gave little indication that it would rush to pour in further stimulus even as it sharply cut its forecast for medium-term economic growth in Britain. France’s central bank forecast a contraction in growth going into the third quarter, citing weak demand from the periphery and Britain.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.04 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 13,175.64 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index edged up just 0.87 of a point, or 0.06 per cent, to finish at 1,402.22. But the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 4.61 points, or 0.15 percent, to end at 3,011.25.

Spanish benchmark 10-year debt yields briefly rose above seven per cent, underscoring the cautious tone from investors recently disappointed by lack of coordination from European officials in their efforts to revive the troubled region.