Stocks closed mostly flat on Monday, with the Dow edging up to another record closing high and the S&P 500 index's advance stalling in response to light trading volume and weaker-than-forecast housing data.
The benchmark S&P 500 had climbed 3.7 percent over the previous two weeks, the index's best fortnight since July. The gains came after mounting signs that the economy was gaining strength, leading the Federal Reserve to announce that it will scale back its stimulus.
The S&P 500 has soared 29.1 percent this year and is on track for its best year since 1997, powered largely by the central bank's stimulus measures. The Dow has jumped 25.9 percent and the Nasdaq has surged 37.6 percent this year.
Volume continued to be light during the holiday season, with about 4 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 6 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets. The US stock market will be closed on Wednesday for New Year's Day.
"It's hard to imagine anyone would jeopardize their gains with this little time left on the clock," said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago.
Trading was in an unusually narrow range on Monday, with the S&P 500 moving only 3.7 points between its high and low over the session, marking its tightest trading range since December 2010. The Dow, meanwhile, moved just 27.5 points, marking its narrowest trading range since February 2007.
The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 0.2 percent in November, below expectations of a 1 percent rise.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 25.88 points, or 0.16 percent, to end at 16,504.29, a record close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX dipped just 0.33 of a point, or 0.02 percent, to finish at 1,841.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC declined 2.40 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 4,154.20.
About 47 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed higher on the day, while 45 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended in positive territory.
"I wish I had extended my vacation, is the only thing going through my head because volume is just anemic," said Sam Ginzburg, head of trading at First New York Securities in New York. He added that the thin holiday volume could inject "a little bit of added volatility in the tape."
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