Stocks break six-day win streak

By Alexandra Twin, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks churned Tuesday, ending a choppy session barely lower as the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq broke a six-session winning streak.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 1 point, or less than 0.1%. The S&P 500 index (SPX) shed 1 point, or 0.1%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) slid 2 points, or 0.1%.

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Stocks managed slim gains Monday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at the highest levels since Oct. 1, 2008 and the Nasdaq ending at the highest point since Sept. 3, 2008.

Trading volume is expected to be light this week, with many market pros taking some or all of the holiday-shortened trading week off. All financial markets are closed Friday for New Year's Day and many participants will cut out early Thursday ahead of New Year's Eve.

Most market pros closed the books earlier this month, with investors looking to end a jarring year on a high note.

Year-to-date, the Dow has risen 20%, the S&P 500 has climbed 25% and the Nasdaq has gained 45%. All three indexes are up more substantially since falling to multi-year lows on March 9 amid the height of the financial crisis.

Next year is not expected to be as robust, most analysts say, as investors look for evidence that economic growth can continue without the copious amount of government assistance that provided a buffer and eventual springboard in 2009.

In particular, investors will be looking for signs that housing is still improving, that consumers are spending again, and that the labor market is healing and enough jobs are being added to drive down the unemployment rate.

"Clearly the market has had a phenomenal run this year and you really can't see anything on the landscape to knock the legs out from under it," said Haag Sherman, managing director at Salient Partners.

He said that in 2010, investors will be focused on the economic news, on when the Fed begins to raise short-term interest rates, and in what direction the beaten-down dollar moves.

"I think overall, the market won't have a year like this year," Sherman said. "It will be a smoother ride, but the returns will be smaller."

Economy: Consumer confidence rose in December, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, hitting the highest point in three months thanks to a better outlook on jobs. Confidence rose to 52.9 from 50.6 previously. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com thought it would rise to 53.

Separately, a report showed home prices flattened out in October after rising for four months in a row. The S&P/Case Shiller index of prices in the 20 largest metropolitan areas was unchanged in October from the previous month. Prices were down 7.3% from a year ago, versus analysts' forecasts for a drop of 7.1%.

World markets: Asian markets ended little changed. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 gained 0.7%, Germany's DAX rose 0.1% and France's CAC 40 added 0.3%.

Commodities and the dollar: COMEX gold for February delivery fell $9.80 to settle at $1,098.10 an ounce. Gold closed at an all-time high of $1,218.30 an ounce earlier this month.

U.S. light crude oil for February delivery rose 10 cents to $78.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. dollar gained versus the euro and the yen.

Bonds: Treasury prices rose, lowering the yield on the 10-year note to 3.80% from 3.84% late Monday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Market breadth was mixed. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners by a narrow margin on volume of 640 million shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers by a slim margin on volume of 1.2 billion shares. To top of page

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