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A big dose of data failed to draw market participants to action today. In turn, the stock market slogged along listlessly before it settled with a slight loss.
There was plenty of data out ahead of the open, but none of it produced any real reaction among premarket participants. Among the items, personal income increased 0.3% while consumption increased 0.4%. The Briefing.com consensus called for respective increases of 0.2% and 0.5%. Personal income in the prior month had increased 0.4% while spending had increased 0.7% in the same time.
Durable goods orders for November fell 1.3%, which is worse than the 1.1% decline that had been generally expected, but not as bad as the prior month's 3.1% drop. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders increased 2.4% in November. They were widely expected to increase by just 0.8% after they fell 1.9% in the prior month.
Initial jobless claims for the week ended December 18 were also out ahead of the open. They totaled 420,000, which is in step with the 424,000 initial claims that had been expected and down slightly from the tally of 423,000 that was recorded for the previous week.
Continuing claims came in 4.06 million, down about 100,000 from the prior week. Its steady downtrend since summer is largely the result of fewer initial claims and the expiration of unemployment benefits, rather than actual hiring.
Even after trade opened participants were largely unresponsive to the University of Michigan's final December Consumer Sentiment Survey, which improved slightly to a five-month best of 74.5, up from 74.2.
New home sales were a bit disappointing. They increase 5.5% in November to an annualized rate of 290,000, but that was still a bit less than the rate of 300,000 that had been expected. Many remain concerned that recent increases in the 10-year Treasury yield, which is now near 3.40%, has put added pressure on housing demand.
Despite all of that data, many traders and investors couldn't be pulled off of their couches or away from shopping centers ahead of Christmas weekend. In turn, trading volume barely broke 600 million shares on the NYSE.
Materials stocks made the best gains of the day. They advanced 0.4%, despite mixed action among commodities and basic materials prices.
Oil was a leader among commodities. February contracts closed pit trade with crude oil priced 1.1% higher at $91.51 per barrel. Prior to that, the energy component set a fresh two-year high at $91.63 per barrel.
Oil's climb came partly in response to the dollar's narrow loss of 0.2%, which came after the greenback had made a couple of modest moves during the day. The dollar's downturn came even after analysts at Fitch downgraded the debt of both Portugal and Hungary in direct recognition of the ongoing fiscal and financial troubles that continue to face countries in the eurozone and its periphery.
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