NEW YORK (
) -- Stocks slipped on profit-taking amid thin volumes Thursday. With one trading day left in the year, all three major U.S. equity indices are on track for double-digit percentage gains for 2010.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
shed 14 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 11,571. The
lost 2 points, or 0.2%, to close at 1,258, while the
settled down by 4 points, or 0.2%, at 2,663.
Volume has been sparse during the final trading week of the year as firms work to close their books for 2010. Thursday's session was no exception with only 507 million shares trading on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.1 billion shares changing hands on the Nasdaq.
Mild profit-taking took hold in Thursday's action as traders locked in gains from December impressive rally. The Dow has appreciated roughly 11% this year with 5.3% of that rise coming this month. The S&P 500 is on pace for a 2010 gain of 13%, while the Nasdaq Composite has risen roughly 18% year-to-date, and both have seen similar surges in December.
Advancing stocks outnumbered decliners as 55% of stocks traded in positive territory and 42% slipped below the flatline. Conglomerates were under the most pressure, while home builders got a lift from a positive read on pending home sales.
Within the Dow,
were the biggest laggards while,
showed the strongest performance. Breadth was negative with 23 of the 30 blue-chip components moving lower.
Thursday did see the release of a fair amount of data for investors to mull over. The Energy Information Administration said crude oil inventories fell by 1.3 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 24, which was a milder than the decline of 3.2 million barrels that analysts polled by Platts had been anticipating. The February crude oil contract lost $1.28 to settle at $89.84 a barrel.
Also the Labor Department said
initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since July 2008, shedding 34,000 to 388,000 in the week ended Dec.25. The drop exceeded Wall Street's expectations for a decline of 4,000, to 416,000, according to Briefing.com.
In addition, manufacturing activity in the Chicago area unexpectedly strengthened in December, according to the Institute for Supply Management of Chicago's purchasing managers index. The level rose to 68.6, from 62.5 in November, exceeding economists' expectations for a reading of 62.5.
Pending-home sales unexpectedly rose 3.5% in November after gaining 10.1% in October, the National Association of Realtors said. Wall Street had forecasted a decline of 3%, according to Briefing.com.
Shares of homebuilders
gained 1%, and 0.8%, respectively.
In corporate news,
stock jumped 6.9% to $75.59 following a report in London's
preparing a bid for the oil and gas exploration company. BHP's stock ticked 0.1% higher to $92.90.
rose 14.6% to $11.87 on news that
withdrew a lawsuit that opposed MBIA's plans to divide its insurance units.
gained 1.6% to $35.79 on its approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a gel that treats low testosterone.
The February gold contract finished down by $7.60, or 0.5%, to settle at $1,405.90 an ounce.
The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.3%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note weakened 4/32, lifting the yield to 3.371%.
The biggest news from abroad for U.S. markets was that Chinese manufacturing growth slowed in December, falling to 54.4 from the prior month's reading of 55.3, marking the first decline since July.
The Chinese government has been enacting measures to slow growth and cool inflation. Less than a week ago, the People's Bank of China raised interest rates for the second time in little more than two months, raising concerns about the potential impact to global growth.
The Nikkei lost 1.1% during Japan's last trading day of the year as the yen strengthened. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1. Hong Kong's stock exchange will have a shortened trading session Friday.
The FTSE in London, where exchanges will also finish the year with an abbreviated session, shed 0.4%. The DAX in Frankfurt finished 1.2% lower. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange will be closed Friday and resume trading on Jan. 4.
--Written by Melinda Peer in New York
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.