Wall Street falls as banks and strong dollar weigh

WALL Street retreated from a two-year high yesterday, weighed down by financial stocks and a stronger dollar.

The broad S&P 500 has risen five straight weeks, supported by the Federal Reserve's plan to buy $600bn of treasuries to lower interest rates and reinvigorate a sluggish economy.

With those gains, traders said most S&P sectors were susceptible to a decline.

Financial stocks the top gainers in recent sessions, fell 0.8 per cent following a 6.9 per cent weekly advance.

Declines in bank shares could go beyond profit-taking from last week's gains.

The Fed’s pledge to keep interest rates near record lows was viewed as hurting bank profits.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 37.24 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 11,406.84. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 2.60 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 1,223.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.07 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 2,580.05.

The dollar rose 0.7 per cent against major currencies on renewed worries about budget problems in Ireland and other debt-weakened euro zone members.

Gains in technology stocks, including Apple, up 0.5 per cent to $318.80, kept the Nasdaq near break-even.

Material stocks outperformed the broader market, and gold miners rose as the precious metal powered to an all-time high above $1,400 an ounce.

Shares of coal producers rose on strong global demand for steel-making coal and renewed talk of mergers in the sector.

Shares of Alpha Natural Resources rallied 8.6 per cent to $48.26, while Arch Coal gained 4.6 per cent to $29.61. Consol Energy rose 3.6 per cent to $40.71.

Volume was light, with about 7.07bn shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below the year-to-date daily average of 8.73bn.

About 16 stocks fell for every 13 that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, on the Nasdaq, about 13 stocks fell for every 12 that advanced.