- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NEW YORK | The stock market edged lower Tuesday, breaking a six-day advance as reports on home prices and consumer confidence did little to excite buyers.

Major indexes rose modestly in the early going but slipped as the dollar strengthened and tugged on commodities prices. A stronger dollar makes commodities more expensive for foreign buyers.

Trading was quiet, as it has been in recent days, and many investors left at the end of the day for a long New Year’s weekend. The low volume held the Dow Jones industrial average to a 36-point range, the narrowest in nearly three years. The modest losses came after stocks had risen for six straight days.

Economic reports looked stronger but failed to galvanize investors. The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to 52.9 in December from 49.5 in November. That was slightly better than economists had forecast.

The index remains well below what is considered healthy. A reading of 90 or more signals a solid economy. However, the index has jumped from a historic low of 25.3 in February.

Home prices also rose. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller’s home price index rose for a fifth straight month in October, edging up 0.4 percent. The index was off 7.3 percent from October last year, roughly in line with expectations.

Analysts said there were few surprises in the economic numbers to drive the market.

The Dow slipped 1.67, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,545.41. The trading range was the tightest since February 2007 and the fifth straight day when the index has swung by fewer than 70 points.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.58, or 0.1 percent, to 1,126.20, while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.68, or 0.1 percent, to 2,288.40. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.57, or 0.1 percent, to 633.18.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is used as a benchmark for consumer loans, fell to 3.80 percent from 3.85 percent late Monday.

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