U.S. stocks struggled for direction on Monday, with the Dow notching the latest in a string of record closes, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.34% climbed 39.58 points, or 0.2%, to close at 19,796.43, after setting an intraday record of 19,824.59, led higher by shares of Johnson & Johnson Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ +1.12% and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.49% Monday marks the sixth consecutive record close for the average.
The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.07% dipped 2.57 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 2,256.96, though it earlier hit an intraday record of 2,264.03, as the financials and consumer discretionary sectors weighed on the index.
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.35% fell 31.96 points, or 0.6%, to finish at 5,412.54. Big-name technology shares finished lower on the day, contributing to the Nasdaq’s decline. Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.80% fell 0.6% while Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.97% lost 1.6%. Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.47% fell 1.1%.
Major indexes had fluctuated between positive and negative territory with investors appearing reluctant to push shares higher following pronounced gains for Wall Street ahead of a key meeting by the Federal Reserve.
The key stock market indexes closed at record highs on Friday, with the S&P posting its longest winning streak since June 2014.
Stocks have been in a strong uptrend since the presidential election in early November, with investors betting that President-elect Donald Trump will advocate for policies—including financial and environmental deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts—that will spur faster growth.
“We’ve made a big move recently, and we’re entitled to a pause, at the minimum,” said Terry Morris, senior equity manager for BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors. “With the threat of higher interest rates there could be more movement from bonds to stocks, so I’m reluctant to say that we’re going down, but we do need a rest.”
Much investor attention is now focused on whether the Dow industrials will make it to the milestone of 20,000, a level the blue-chip index is about 1% below. Last week, major indexes climbed more than 3%, the latest move higher in a surge that has surprised many analysts with its length and swiftness.
Caution reigned ahead of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, which ends Wednesday. The central bank is widely expected to lift the target range for its federal-funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point to between 0.5% and 0.75%. That would be the first increase of 2016.
“The Fed is expected to raise rates by a quarter of a percent, which will mean nothing to the market,” Morris said. “But we don’t know what effect it will have if they don’t raise at all, or if they raise by more than is expected.”