The S&P 500 ended flat on Monday after briefly touching a record high, while Wall Street's "fear gauge" dropped to its lowest in over two decades following centrist Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election.
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The CBOE Volatility index <.VIX> dropped 7.6 percent to 9.77, its lowest since 1993 as investors took comfort from Macron's victory, as well as from strong quarterly reports in recent weeks.
A declining VIX typically indicates a bullish outlook for stocks, but the extreme lows the index has touched are sounding caution for some stock investors.
"It's been here before, but not much lower than this," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at Newbridge Securities in New York. "It's signaling that something negative is in the works."
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors dipped, with the materials index <.SPLRCM> down 0.91 percent and energy <.SPNY> rising 0.7 percent on the back of higher oil prices.
The euro hit a six-month high against the dollar after Macron comfortably defeated far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, who had threatened to take France out of the European Union.
"We remain largely constructive of the equity market and view that the path of least resistance is higher," said Bill Northey, chief investment officer at Private Client Group of U.S. Bank.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> edged up 0.03 percent to end at 21,012.28 points and the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.08 points, less than a hundredth of a percent, to end at 2,399.37. It briefly touched a record high of 2,399.94.
The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 0.03 percent to 6,102.66.
With March-quarter reporting season nearly complete, S&P 500 earnings on average have grown 14.4 percent, and earnings for the June quarter are expected on average to increase 8.6 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Suggesting U.S. stocks remain expensive, the S&P 500 is trading at 17.8 times expected earnings, compared to its 10-year average of 14.2, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
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Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.23-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.22-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 44 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 116 new highs and 58 new lows.
About 6.3 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the 6.6 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)