Nasdaq sets another record; energy stocks hold back S&P 500

NEW YORK (AP) — The Nasdaq composite index ticked higher to another record Tuesday, but a drop by energy stocks held other indexes back.

It was the third straight day that the Nasdaq notched an all-time high, but each of those has been by only a marginal amount. Stocks have been stuck in a largely listless trading pattern in recent weeks, as investors see few reasons to make big moves in either direction.

The Nasdaq rose 17.93 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,120.59. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index bobbed around its own record through the day, before losing momentum in the last half hour. It slipped 2.46 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,396.92.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 36.50 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,975.78, and the Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks ticked up by 0.22 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,391.86.

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Markets have been placid the last two weeks, and the biggest one-day move for the S&P 500 during that span has been 0.6 percent, as investors keep crossing off reasons to fear. Last week’s solid jobs report gave reassurance that the U.S. economy is improving despite a weak showing at the start of the year.

Companies have been turning in a series of stronger-than-expected profit reports, which has tempered concerns that stocks have grown too expensive relative to earnings. And the recent presidential election in France raised confidence that voters may be turning their back on a nationalistic brand of politics that could hurt global trade.

“This is almost like the post-celebration letdown,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management. “Everyone is just relaxing, trying to figure out what direction to go next.”

It could stay that way for a few days, unless something unexpected happens to knock the market out of its lazy drift, with few events on the calendar with market-moving potential.

“We’re in a little bit of a lull here, and I think traders are thinking it’s like a Seinfeld episode where it’s all about nothing,” Jacobsen said.

The day’s biggest excitement involved energy stocks, which deepened their losses for the year. Energy stocks in the S&P 500 lost 0.9 percent, tied for most among the 11 sectors that make up the index. They’re now down 10.8 percent for 2017, when the S&P 500 is up 7.1 percent.

The sector followed the price of oil lower. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 55 cents to settle at $45.88 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 61 cents to $48.73 per barrel.

High-dividend stocks were also weak. Utilities in the S&P 500 lost 0.9 percent, while telecoms fell 0.6 percent.

Demand has dulled for high income-paying stocks as bonds have begun to pay more in interest. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.39 percent Tuesday, but it’s up from a low of 2.17 percent three weeks ago.

Marriott International jumped $6.13, or…

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