New York - US stocks drifted in light volume on Wednesday,
ending little changed, as investors remained cautious after the S&P 500
index briefly hit its highest intraday level since November 2007.
The S&P 500 was buoyed by General Electric after cable
company Comcast said it will buy from GE the part of NBC Universal it didn't
already own for $16.7bn.
Comcast's stock hit the highest since 1999 before closing up
3% at $40.13 and GE gained 3.6% to $23.39.
The S&P 500 is up 6.6% so far this year, partly due to
stronger-than-expected corporate earnings and a better economic outlook. The
Dow industrial is about 1% away from an all-time intraday high, reached in
Volume has been weak in recent days with the S&P moving
sideways around 1,520. The index is about 3% away from closing at a record
A scarcity of sellers after a consistent string of gains is
a positive sign and shows the uptrend is intact, King Lip, chief investment
officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco, said.
"Last year we had double-digit returns in the first
quarter. It's fairly possible we can move higher from here," he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 35.79 points to
13,982.91, the S&P 500 gained 0.9 point to 1,520.33 and the Nasdaq
Composite added 10.38 points to 3,196.88.
The S&P gained 12% in the first three months of 2012.
Deere & Co, the world's largest farm equipment maker,
forecast a modest increase in sales this year despite the prospect of the
biggest corn crop in US history. The forecast fell short of analysts'
expectations, sending shares of Deere down 3.5% to $90.68.
In extended trading, shares of technology bellwether Cisco
Systems fell 2% after it posted results.
Dr Pepper Snapple fell 5.8% to $42.69 after it forecast
profit for the current year below analysts' estimates.
Cliffs Natural Resources lost a fifth of its market value a
day after the miner reported a quarterly loss and slashed its dividend by 76%.
Its shares fell 20% to 429.29.
According to the latest Thomson Reuters data, of the 364
companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 70.3% have exceeded
analysts' expectations, above a 62% average since 1994 and 65% over the past
About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock
Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average in February last
year of 6.94 billion.
On the NYSE, roughly seven issues rose for every five that
fell and on Nasdaq more than six rose for every five decliners.