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US stocks directionless

Reported by AAP
Friday, March 30, 2012
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US stocks have closed mixed on listless trade amid lacklustre new economic data a day ahead of the quarter's end.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 19.61 points (0.15 per cent) at 13,145.821, after having traded down as much as 90 points during the session.

The broad-based S&P 500 lost 2.26 (0.16 per cent) to 1,403.28, while the tech-centric Nasdaq gave up 9.60 (0.31 per cent) to 3,095.36.

Data confirming the peppy 3.0 per cent fourth-quarter economic growth rate and the slow fall in jobless claims did not impress investors.

Analysts also credited the weak trade on the close of the period for adjusting portfolios ahead of the end of the quarter, which some said had helped boost stocks before Tuesday.

"A bearish blanket of fog hangs over Wall Street," said Karee Venema of Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Nearly two thirds of the Dow blue chips closed in the red, but the index was pulled up overall in the last hour by a surge in aluminum giant Alcoa, which ended 2.0 per cent higher at $US10.03.

The Dow also got help from a 1.6 per cent gain from Coca-Cola and a 1.3 per cent rise from Intel.

Health insurers rose broadly after justices' remarks during a three-day Supreme Court hearing reviewing the Obama administration's landmark health care law suggested that, when they rule on its legality in the coming months, they would not likely act in a way that would harm the insurers.

Aetna jumped 6.5 per cent, Cigna 4.0 per cent and Coventry gained 5.9 per cent.

Big box electronics retailer Best Buy lost 7.0 per cent after reporting a fourth-quarter loss. Hit by competition from internet retailers and changing consumer tastes, the company said it would close 50 stores and seek to cut costs by $US800 million by 2015.

Open-source software firm Red Hat jumped 19.5 per cent after reporting a 7.3 per cent rise in fourth-quarter income and announcing a $US300 million share buyback program.

Shares of biotech testing systems provider Illumina surged 5.1 per cent to $US52.40 after drugmaker Roche raised its hostile bid for the company to $US51 a share from $US44.50 earlier.

US-traded Roche shares were down 1.0 per cent.

US bond prices rose. The interest on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 2.16 per cent from 2.20 per cent late Wednesday, while the 30-year moved to 3.27 per cent from 3.30 per cent.

Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

22/12/2014 11:37Sydney, Australia. 22 December,2014
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