The so-called "Santa Claus rally," whereby stocks have a tendency to rise the week before Christmas, was looking good on Monday and Tuesday when the market closed sharply higher. On Wednesday, however, some of the good cheer had dissipated as investors took profits sending the major averages out on the lows of the day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 99 points to close at 13,252. The widely watched blue-chip index traded in a range between 13,252 and 13,358, finishing right on the lows of the session.
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) lost 0.74 percent and closed the day at $144.29. Volume was slightly above average with around 137.5 million SPY shares trading hands compared to a 3-month daily average of 135.2 million.
The PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF (QQQ), which tracks the performance of the Nasdaq 100, fell 0.43 percent to $66.26. The losses would have been worse in the heavily traded ETF if it were not for a nearly four percent rally in Oracle (ORCL) shares after the company's quarterly earnings report.
Despite the decline in stocks, crude oil was strongly higher on the day. NYMEX crude futures, the U.S. benchmark, were up 1.57 percent to $89.51. Brent crude contracts had added 1.21 percent and were trading at $110.15. In ETF trading, the United States Oil Fund ETF (USO) closed the equity session up 1.52 percent to $32.67.
Precious metals were down on Wednesday with most of the losses coming in silver. At last check, COMEX gold futures had lost just 0.03 percent to $1,670.20 while silver futures shed 1.59 percent to $31.17. The heavily traded SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) closed the equity session down 0.23 percent to $161.69.
The losses in the stock market caused some investors to move into long-term U.S. Treasuries. The iShares Barclays 20+ Year Tresury Bond ETF (TLT) added 0.37 percent to $120.93. The yield on the 10-Year Note fell 2 basis points to 1.80 percent.
The U.S. dollar was close to flat on Wednesday. The PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish ETF (UUP), which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of foreign currencies, lost 0.05 percent to $21.67. Dollar Index futures were last down 0.03 percent. The closely watched EUR/USD pair had risen 0.15 percent to $1.3246 at last check.
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