NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks were little changed in thin trading on Monday as the S&P 500 notched its latest record high, but gains were curbed when an early rally in energy prices lost momentum.
Equities have trended to the upside of late, buoyed by data showing an improving economy and the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates. After the S&P 500 gained nearly 6 percent over the prior eight sessions, it notched its 53rd record close of the year on Monday.
The S&P energy index advanced 0.3 percent, pulling back from a gain of more than 1 percent as Brent and U.S. crude oil turned lower. Brent settled down $1.57 at $57.88 and U.S. crude settled down $1.12 at $53.61 a barrel.
Good News for Retailers
In contrast to the fall in oil prices, consumer discretionary names were among the day's best performers, up 0.7 percent. General Motors (GM) rose 2.6 percent to $34.60. The S&P 500 retail sector rose 0.8 percent as Macy's (M) advanced 1.8 percent to $65.22, and Amazon.com (AMZN) was up 1 percent to $312.04.
"The nearer-term picture is, consumers are enjoying lower gas prices, it's almost as if it is an alleviation of taxes," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey. "Someone is getting hurt in this while the consumer is benefiting, and at some point it could come back to bite the market and the economy."
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 15.48 points, or 0.09 percent, to 18,038.23, the S&P 500 (^GPSC) gained 1.8 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,090.57 and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) added 0.05 points to 4,806.91.
A Quiet Week
The speed and scale of the rally could cap further upside, especially in the final trading week of the year, when many market participants are out on holiday and catalysts are limited. Volume is expected to remain light, which could exacerbate volatility. The stock market will be closed on Thursday for New Year's Day. About 4.78 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges on Monday, well below the 7.18 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.
Gilead Sciences (GILD) rose 3.7 percent to $97.30 as one of the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to "overweight" from "equal-weight." LiveDeal (LIVE) jumped 19.1 percent to $3.92 on volume of 13.6 million shares, to dwarf its 50-day average of about 455,000 shares, after the company reported 2014 results.
NYSE advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,800 to 1,299, for a 1.39-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,438 issues rose and 1,320 fell for a 1.09-to-1 ratio favoring advancers. The S&P 500 posted 68 new 52-week highs and five new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 160 new highs and 39 new lows.
Trouble in Greece
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed to get enough support for his presidential nominee and will call a national election for Jan. 25. Stocks in Athens plunged as much as 11.3 percent before closing down 3.9 percent, while yields on 10-year Greek bonds touched their highest since September 2013. Greece's Syriza party, which could come out ahead in the election, wants to wipe out a big part of the country's debt and cancel the terms of a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund that Athens needs in order to pay its bills.
"Greece is always worth paying attention to, but it's a hiccup," said Mark Martiak, senior wealth strategist at Premier Wealth/First Allied Securities in New York. "I don't see it as anything that makes a difference in the overall market."
Hurt in part by the sharp decline in crude prices in the past six months, Russia's economy shrank sharply in November. The ruble resumed its slide on Monday, down 8.4 percent to 58.45 per dollar. Copper fell to its lowest level in four and a half years on concerns about a strong dollar and a slowdown in top consumer China.
The 10 Best Places to Retire on Social Security Alone
Market Wrap: A Flat Day With Another S&P High
Senior citizen renters pay a median of $686 monthly to live in Albuquerque. Homeowners age 65 and older pay a median of $1,078 a month if they have a mortgage and just $368 monthly if they have paid off the mortgage. There are six senior centers where people age 50 and older can become members for just $13 a year.
The low housing costs in Texas are drawing people to the state. A home in Austin costs retirees a median of $1,395 monthly with a mortgage and $545 if they own their home debt-free. The median rent for retirees age 65 and older is $887 monthly. Texas doesn't have a state income tax, but it's important to carefully consider the property tax you might face on any home purchase.
If you can tolerate the cold and snowy winters, you'll be rewarded with a very low cost of living. Senior citizens age 65 and older pay just $466 monthly in housing costs if they have paid off their mortgages, $1,009 monthly if they are still paying off their home and $611 in monthly rent. The City of Buffalo also provides a senior discount card that entitles retirees to a percentage off their purchases when they shop at local businesses.
South Carolina residents age 60 and older who are no longer working are eligible for free tuition at the University of South Carolina. Seniors can also get discount tickets to the Riverbanks Zoo and Columbia Museum of Art. Housing remains affordable, costing retirees $1,074 monthly with a mortgage, $367 with a paid-off house or $801 in monthly rent.
This small city is known for its outsized art scene, which includes the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and the art competition ArtPrize. Retirees age 65 and older pay just $684 monthly in rent. Older homeowners pay $1,080 monthly with a mortgage and $427 a month if their house is paid off.
Jacksonville offers balmy winters similar to other parts of Florida, but at much more affordable prices. Retirees age 65 and older pay a median rent of just $861 a month. Older homeowners pay a median of $1,247 a month if they have a mortgage, which drops significantly to $405 once they pay off the house. An added bonus: There's no state income tax in Florida.
Pittsburgh has several professional sports teams, noteworthy museums, major colleges and the UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is ranked 13th in the country in geriatrics. But housing prices remain affordable, costing senior citizens a median of $1,023 monthly with a mortgage, $434 when they have paid off their house or $614 a month in rent. Plus, residents age 65 or over ride free on the bus, T or Monongahela Incline.
The Spokane River flows through downtown Spokane and can be enjoyed at Riverfront Park, one of the city's numerous recreation areas for hiking and biking. Washington state doesn't have an individual income tax, and housing in retirement is affordable, costing just $419 monthly with a paid-off house and $1,139 monthly with a mortgage. The median rent for people age 65 and older is $733 monthly.
Home costs for seniors are $1,115 monthly with a mortgage and $434 a month with a paid-off house, while renters pay a median of $664 monthly in rent. There are also affordable local services to transport retirees to doctor appointments and the grocery store and help with minor home repairs and chores. The Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University is nationally ranked in geriatrics.
Retirees can take in the enormous cactuses at Saguaro National Park, where U.S. citizens age 62 or older can get a lifetime pass to this and other national parks for just $10. Yet this sunny city remains affordable. Monthly rent for people 65 and older is a median of $771. Older homeowners pay $1,095 monthly with a mortgage, but that drops significantly to $366 for people who have paid off their homes. Plus, the state of Arizona doesn't tax Social Security income.