* Data on manufacturing and construction spending point to
* Forest Labs rallies after comments; 3M falls after
* Black Friday holiday sales dip on discounts
* Dow flat, S&P 500 up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq flat
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 2 U.S. stocks barely moved on
Monday as investors found few reasons to keep pushing shares
higher after eight straight weeks of gains, despite data
pointing to stronger growth in manufacturing and construction
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of
national factory activity rose to 57.3 in November - its best
showing since April 2011 - from 56.4 in October, while the pace
of hiring in the sector also accelerated.
In addition, construction spending increased 0.8 percent in
October to an annual rate of $908.4 billion, the highest since
May 2009, as a rebound in public construction projects offset a
drop in private outlays.
Earlier, financial data firm Markit said its U.S.
Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 54.7 last month
from 51.8 in October.
Equities have rallied in recent weeks on expectations of
continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve. The S&P 500 has
risen for eight straight weeks, its longest run since a
nine-week climb between November 2003 and January 2004, putting
its yearly gain at nearly 27 percent. Both the Dow and the S&P
500 have hit repeated all-time highs this year.
"We're not expecting a severe pullback, but we're not
jumping into the market with both feet, given how far we've come
and that there are no real catalysts," said John Norris,
managing director of wealth management with Oakworth Capital
Bank in Birmingham, Alabama.
While the Fed's stimulus is expected to put a floor under
equity prices as long as it continues, market participants
expect the central bank to begin scaling back its bond-buying
program within the next few months, with many expecting an
announcement in March.
The central bank has said it would begin to slow the program
when certain economic measures meet its targets. The calendar is
packed this week with data that may provide some insight,
culminating with the November nonfarm payrolls report on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.24
points, or 0.01 percent, at 16,085.17. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 3.61 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,809.42.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.61 points, or 0.02
percent, at 4,060.50.
Gains were limited in the Dow by 3M Co, which fell
3.2 percent to $129.19 after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock
to "underweight" from "equal weight."
On the upside, Forest Laboratories Inc jumped 6.6
percent to $54.68 as the S&P's biggest percentage gainer after
the company said it plans to buy rights to a new schizophrenia
treatment from Merck & Co and cut annual operating costs
by $500 million in fiscal 2016.
Retailers will stay in focus as the holiday shopping season
ramps up. Heavy discounting took a toll on U.S. retail sales
during the Thanksgiving weekend as shoppers spent almost 3
percent less than they did a year earlier, according to an
"I'm not agonizing about the Black Friday numbers," Norris
said. "There's still a lot of time before the season ends, and
it should be stronger than last year since the market has been
so good, and people have more money to spend."
The S&P retail sector index fell 0.2 percent, led
lower by a 3.3 percent drop in Urban Outfitters to
$37.75 after Sterne Agee cut its rating on the stock to
In the industrial sector, shares of Dow Chemical
rose 2.9 percent to $40.19 after the company identified the
commodity chemicals businesses it would sell or spin off as part
of a plan to sell assets worth $3 billion to $4 billion.