August 31, 2010 / 9:17 AM / 9 years ago

Wall St ends dismal month on flat note, semis slide

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks ended little changed in choppy trading on Tuesday, closing out an August the bulls would like to forget.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Positive data surprises sustained a rally for most of the session, but declines in technology shares capped overall gains. The S&P 500 bounced off the key technical level of 1,040 for the third time in the last five sessions.

The S&P 500 fell 4.7 percent in August, the third time in the last four months the benchmark has lost at least that much, pressured by growing evidence the economic recovery is sputtering. The month also witnessed the five lowest daily trading volumes of the year.

U.S. consumer confidence rose more than expected in August and home prices ticked up in June, though a separate report showed business activity in the U.S. Midwest grew in August a bit less than economists expected.

“It seems like the market is whipping around on every bit of data that comes out,” said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

“Each piece of news causes a reaction, then 15 minutes later, people are looking for the next piece of news.”

Broadcom Corp tumbled 6.4 percent to $29.96 and the PHLX semiconductor index closed at its lowest level in almost 10 months in the aftermath of Friday’s revenue warning from sector bellwether Intel Corp.

“We see Intel as the first of many possible earnings that could be short of expectations,” said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Intel, down 1.6 percent at $17.67, said Friday its third- quarter revenue could fall below its own estimates.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 4.99 points, or 0.05 percent, to 10,014.72. The Standard & Poor’s 500 ticked up 0.41 point, or 0.04 percent, to 1,049.33. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 5.94 points, or 0.28 percent, to close at 2,114.03.

For the month, the Dow fell 4.31 percent while the Nasdaq tumbled 6.24 percent. The S&P 500 lost 4.75 percent, posting its worst August since 2001 in terms of percentage declines.

Further weighing on the market on Tuesday, minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting suggested the outlook for the U.S. economy would have to deteriorate “appreciably” to spur fresh support from the central bank.

“Market participants have some hope that the Fed will engage in (more quantitative easing) which had such a positive impact in 2009,” said Barry Knapp, managing director of equity research at Barclays Capital in New York.

“That doesn’t look likely in the near term.”

Monsanto Co was the S&P 500’s second-biggest percentage decliner behind Broadcom, falling 5.8 percent to $52.65 after it forecast full-year earnings below expectations and said it would further reduce its work force.

Research in Motion Ltd’s U.S.-listed shares lost 6 percent to $42.84 after Sanford C. Bernstein cut its price target on the stock, citing a threat to the contribution to earnings from the BlackBerry maker’s corporate business.

Saks Inc surged 19.6 percent to $7.89 after a news report suggested that a group of private equity firms might soon bid for the New York-based luxury department store operator.

About 8.16 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year’s estimated daily average of 9.65 billion but still the month’s fourth-busiest day.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 5 to 4, while on the Nasdaq, advancers and decliners were about even.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Jan paschal

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