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Little Movement Thursday on Wall Street

U.S. stock indexes ended up pretty much where they started on Thursday, a day after a powerful surge.

Wall Street
Allison Joyce, Getty Images

Stocks gained the most in more than two months Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it would reduce its bond-buying program to $75 billion a month from $85 billion. Investors saw the decision as a vote of confidence in the economy.

“It’s good for the economy, and it’s good for the market, to start standing on its own two feet,” said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer for stocks at Calvert Investments.

Financial markets were still digesting the Fed’s move on Thursday. While stocks were holding close to record levels, Treasury yields climbed, the dollar rose and gold slumped to its lowest in more than three years.

Major U.S. stock indexes started the day lower, moved gradually higher throughout the day and closed essentially flat.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.05 points, or 0.06 percent, to 1,809.60. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 11.11 points, or 0.07 percent, to 16,179.08. It rose 293 points the day before. The Nasdaq composite fell 11.93 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,058.13.

Target fell $1.40, or 2.2 percent, to $62.15 after the company said that about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been compromised by a data breach that happened just as shoppers flooded into stores for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Facebook declined 52 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $55.05 after the company said it will sell 70 million shares, more than half of them from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The S&P 500 is up 0.2 percent for the month after moving into the green for the first time in December on Wednesday. If the gains hold, the index will have advanced for 10 of the 12 months this year.

Stock have surged this year as the Fed has kept up its economic stimulus and held down long-term interest rates. Stock prices have also been supported by growing corporate earnings and a gradually strengthening economy.

Investors were happy to get more reassurance Wednesday from the Fed that interest rates would stay low after the bond-buying stimulus was removed, said Eric Weigand, a senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank.

The moderate pace of the reduction in the Fed’s bond purchases was also encouraging. “It was not too hot and not too cold,” Weigand said.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.93 percent from 2.89 percent late Wednesday. The yield climbs when bond prices fall. Demand for bonds was lower Thursday as traders anticipated less buying from the Fed.

The rise in yields also hit the stocks of power companies.

Utilities companies fell the most of the 10 industry sectors that make up the S&P 500. Investors buy utility stocks because they pay big dividends. As bond yields rise, those stocks become less attractive.

The price of gold dropped $41.40, or 3.4 percent, to close at $1,193.60 an ounce. Gold hadn’t settled below $1,200 an ounce in more than three years.

Investors are dumping their holdings of gold because interest rates are rising and the dollar is gaining after the Fed said it would pare back its bond purchases. Traders are selling gold because they see less risk of inflation from the Fed’s stimulus program.

Among other stocks making big moves:

– Oracle jumped $2, or 6 percent, $36.60 after its earnings beat Wall Street forecasts. The business software maker earned $2.55 billion, or 56 cents per share. Revenue rose 2 percent to $9.28 billion from $9.09 billion.

– Darden Restaurants slumped $1.90, or 4 percent, to $51.02 after the restaurant company said it will spin off its Red Lobster chain and not open any new Olive Gardens.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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