Stocks Flat After Day Of Big Gains

Published January 4, 2012 6:54PM (EST)

Stock indexes were flat Wednesday after a big gain to open the trading year.

Specialty stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond rose after a report that mall shopping was strong in the days after Christmas. Bank stocks, health care companies and utilities fell slightly.

But nothing moved much. Investors appeared content with Tuesday's gain of almost 180 points in the Dow Jones industrial average, which brought the Dow to its highest level since July.

"It's healthy to see that after a big rally," said Randy Warren, chief investment officer for Warren Financial Service. "People need to sit back and think about it."

Just before 2 p.m. EST, the Dow up 14 points at 12,411. The Dow lost 60 points in early trading, then came back to break even at midday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up a third of a point at 1,277. The Nasdaq was up a fraction of a point at 2,648.

Retailing industry stocks rose 0.8 percent as a group after the report on after-Christmas sales, which were up 5.3 percent compared with a year ago. Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. rose 2.4 percent, and Ross Stores Inc., which sells discounted clothes, was up 2.3 percent.

However, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell 1.2 percent, making it the biggest decliner among the Dow's 30 stocks. Target Corp. fell 2.3 percent. Analysts have been concerned that some stores raised holiday sales with deep discounts that will hurt profits.

Automakers delivered a strong end to 2011. Analysts had been expecting December to be a strong sales month for cars on the theory that more confidence in the economy would unlock pent-up demand. Ford Motor Co. stock rose 29 cents to $11.43.

European markets declined, and the euro fell back below $1.30, to $1.2945, within a penny of its lowest level in a year. Another increase borrowing costs for Italy renewed worries about Europe's efforts to restore confidence in its debt-hobbled governments.

In other corporate news:

— Acme Packet Inc., which makes phone equipment, plunged almost 20 percent after saying its quarterly profit and revenue would be well below analyst expectations.

— Yahoo Inc. fell 2 percent after the company named Scott Thompson, president of eBay Inc.'s PayPal division, as CEO — its fourth in five years. Yahoo has been without a permanent CEO since firing Carol Bartz in September. EBay stock fell 4 percent.

— Fallen photography pioneer Eastman Kodak Co. lost 2 cents to 64 cents after the company said its stock could be removed from the New York Stock Exchange if it doesn't rise above $1 in the next six months.

By Salon Staff

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