published Monday, August 5th, 2013

Stocks flounder on a quiet day on Wall Street

By MATTHEW CRAFT

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks slipped today in quiet trading on Wall Street.

There was little market-moving news to drive trading, other than a report from the Institute for Supply Management that the U.S. service sector expanded in July, helped by a rise in new orders.

It was the latest piece of data that economists and investors puzzled through as they try to judge how well the U.S. economy is doing.

Last Thursday, the ISM reported that manufacturing increased last month. The next day, the government reported that companies weren't hiring as many workers as economists had predicted.

In Monday afternoon trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,707. Utilities led eight of the 10 industry groups in the index slightly lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 54 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,604. The Nasdaq composite index dipped three points, less than 0.1 percent, to 3,687.

"The market is just generally flat, even with positive economic news," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank's wealth management group. "But I think it's flat for a reason. With broad indexes near all-time highs, we're due for a pause."

Last Thursday, the S&P 500 index breached 1,700 points for the first time. An improving U.S. economy and rising corporate profits have helped push the index up 19.7 percent this year.

Among companies in the news, Berkshire Hathaway crept higher on the first day of trading after its earnings report. Warren Buffett's conglomerate posted a 46 percent rise in profit late Friday, easily beating Wall Street's estimates. Berkshire reported big paper gains on the value of its derivative contracts and higher earnings from its BNSF railroad. Its stock edged up 50 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $118.31.

Big companies have been reporting better second-quarter results. Analysts estimate that earnings for companies in the S&P 500 increased 4.4 percent over the same period a year earlier.

In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 2.65 percent from 2.60 percent in late Friday trading.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Revlon jumped after announcing that it will buy Colomer Group, which sells hair dye and other products to beauty salons. Revlon rose $1.49, or 6 percent, to $25.99.

— Tyson Foods, the nation's biggest meat producer, jumped after announcing that its quarterly profits more than tripled. Tyson rose $1.23, or 4 percent, to $29.74.

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