Stocks end mixed on quiet day; energy stocks fall

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By KEN SWEET, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market paused Monday, ending on a mixed note, after a string of records in recent weeks.

Investors had little company-specific news to digest and trading was light ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday later this week. Still, the market was hit with broader geopolitical news. The U.S. and other world powers reached a deal Sunday to limit Iran's nuclear program, an event that dragged down oil prices and energy stocks.

The slow day represented a lull in the market's strong run-up. Stocks have soared this year as a combination of solid corporate earnings, a strengthening economy and easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve have drawn investors to stocks. Stocks have also gained because they offer an attractive alternative to bonds, where interest rates remain close to all-time lows.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose eight points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,072.54. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,802.48. On Friday, the index closed above 1,800 for the first time

Despite light trade, Monday did feature another market milestone. The Nasdaq rose as high as 4,007.09, a level it hasn't seen since Sept. 7, 2000, during the dot-com bubble. The index ended up 2.92 points, or 0.1 percent, at 3,994.57.

The biggest drags on the S&P 500 were energy stocks. Sunday's deal with Iran was the first significant progress in years to curtail that country's nuclear ambitions. It could reduce the risk of conflict, improve trade and boost global oil supplies by making it easier for Iran to sell its crude onto the global market. That could increase global supply and push oil prices lower in the long-term.

Oil fell 75 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $94.09. Energy companies Halliburton, Transocean and Schlumberger all fell 2 percent or more.

Even with Monday's decline, S&P 500 has risen seven straight weeks and is up 26 percent in 2013, its best performance in 15 years.

However, an increasing number of investors believe that stocks have run their course for 2013 and stocks are due for a pullback soon.

"I would like to see this market take a breather," said Jim Lauder, a fund manager for Wells Fargo Advantage Dow Jones Target Date Funds.

While the Nasdaq is flirting with territory it hasn't seen in 13 years, the index is still down roughly 25 percent from its all-time high of 5,048.62 that it set on March 10, 2000. The index, although still technology heavy, is dominated by highly-profitable companies like Apple, Google and Amazon.

Trading was light Monday and is expected to remain limited all week. Stock and bond markets are closed Thursday in observance of the Thanksgiving. On Friday, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will close early. Approximately 2.98 billion shares traded hands Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, below the 3.35 billion that is typically traded on an average day.

Investors will focus on Black Friday, when the holiday shopping season officially starts. Due to the lateness of Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping season is a week shorter than usual, and that could affect the amount of shopping people can do. An increasing number of retailers are opening up on Thanksgiving to draw in customers.

In other news, shares of Wal-Mart rose 62 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $80.43 after the company announced its CEO was stepping down. Alcoa climbed 35 cents, or 4 percent, to $9.59 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the company to "buy" from "neutral," citing potential growth in its aluminum products business.

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