U.S. Stocks Slip in Quiet Trading

By Riva Gold and Lucy Craymer Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks pulled back slightly in a quiet trading session heading into the holiday weekend.

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The pause in stock trading comes on the heels of a busy week in Washington that included an overhaul of the U.S. tax code and a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through mid-January, avoiding a shutdown. Major indexes notched weekly gains, even as some analysts and traders said the tax overhaul was mostly priced into the stock market ahead of the vote.

The S&P 500 is on pace to rise more than 1% in December, marking the ninth consecutive monthly climb, the longest such streak since 1983. If history is any indication, stocks could have more gains ahead of them in the coming week. Since its inception, during the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading sessions of the new year, the S&P 500 has risen 75% of the time, according to WSJ Market Data Group. This climb has been dubbed by some traders the "Santa Claus Rally."

On Friday, stocks seesawed between slight gains and losses in early trading before trending lower. The S&P 500 fell 1.23 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2683.34, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 28.23 points, or 0.1%, to 24754.06. The Nasdaq Composite declined 5.40 points, or 0.1%, to 6959.96. For the week, the Dow industrials rose 0.4%, while the other two indexes closed up 0.3%.

The bond market was similarly muted, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edging up to 2.486% from 2.483% Thursday. Earlier this week, yields rose as investors sold long-term bonds, sending the 10-year yield to its highest level since March, near 2.5%.

"It's holiday trade," said John Brady, managing director at futures brokerage R.J. O'Brien, adding that few traders were opening new bets. "People want to get through today, not create a lot of damage in their portfolios."

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Investors withdrew $14.5 billion from stock mutual and exchange-traded funds in the past week, according to EPFR Global data. It was the biggest week of outflows since Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

In Europe, stocks slipped on Friday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 falling 0.1%, weighed down by Spanish stocks as a victory for Catalonia's separatist parties in a regional election sapped some demand for that country's assets.

Catalonia's separatist parties won a majority in a vote Thursday for a new regional assembly, keeping alive the threat of secession from Spain and opening a period of uncertainty over relations between Catalonia and Madrid.

Spain's benchmark IBEX 35 index declined 1.2% on Friday, with lenders Banco de Sabadell and CaixaBank each falling more than 3%.

Still, many analysts were skeptical the development would maintain pressure on the common currency or meaningfully weigh down European markets. While the results are considered a blow to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, few expect another unilateral independence declaration soon, and there are few signs Spain's growth has been dented in recent months.

"These events are very uncertain and difficult to predict, and investors are focused on economic growth and earnings growth," said Jon Adams, investment strategist with BMO Global Asset Management. Among political concerns in Europe, "We're more worried about Italian elections and German coalition talks," he added.

Markets in Hong Kong and Japan closed with gains in thin trading.

During trading in Asia, Bitcoin slumped to $13,200 from $15,800 in barely three hours. Bitcoin has wiped out one-fourth of its market value in the past day and lost about $121 billion of its total market value in less than a week.

South Korea's Kospi -- one of Asia's worst performers Thursday -- edged up 0.4% after four straight declines. Japan's Nikkei rose 0.2% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7%, ending the week with gains.

Lucy Craymer contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2017 16:45 ET (21:45 GMT)