Markets Finish Flat, Taking Break After Big Week

U.S. stocks ended the trading day almost right where they began today, as investors took a breather after a strong run-up in the markets last week.

The three major averages finished mix, but with little change. The Dow gained 3.77 points, or 0.04 percent, to close at 10,391.31. The Nasdaq was up 0.31 points, or 0.02 percent, to 2,039.25 and the S&P fell 1.28 points, or 0.11 percent, to 1,164.89.

Crude, Dollar Down

Market watchers said investors were cooling their heels following a three-session run-up that began after President Bush won re-election and ahead of what is expected to be another rate hike from the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday. Many observers believe that hike was guaranteed when the Labor Department reported stronger-than-expected job growth for October on Friday.

The Fed’s statement on its future bias from here will be closely scrutinized for evidence as to whether one more rate hike will be put in place when the Fed next meets in December.

Oil continued to become less of a factor for U.S. markets as crude futures slid lower today, closing down 52 cents in New York Mercantile Exchange trading to US$49.09. The Energy Department has reported growing inventories in crude oil stockpiles for each of the past six weeks. That stockpile has also helped drive down retail gas prices in the past week, the department said.

Trade, Budget Deficits

But the news wasn’t as good on the currency front, where the Euro again hit a record high level against the U.S. dollar. Ballooning U.S. trade and budget deficits are cited as the reason for the run-up in the Euro.

Some European economic officials called on the U.S. to address its budget gap. European exporters are the most likely to be impacted in the short term by the imbalance and while it can be good news for U.S. exporters in the short run, volatile currency markets are considered a damper on worldwide economic growth.

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