US stocks mixed after historic 2-day close

Associated Press

Stocks closed mixed on Wednesday in their first session since Hurricane Sandy forced a historic two-day shutdown of trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 10.75 points to 13,096.46. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose, but barely — up 0.22 of a point to 1,412.16.

Investors were nervous that a flood of orders after two days of pent-up demand from customers might lead to volatile trading. But stock prices barely budged at the opening, and stayed within a tight range throughout the day.

“It’s been very smooth,” Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, told CNBC from the exchange floor shortly after the opening bell. “The market-making community is more than staffed enough to be open.”

The last time the New York Stock Exchange closed for two consecutive days because of weather was during the Blizzard of 1888 — 124 years ago. Since power was out in large parts of downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, the trading floor had to be run on backup generators.

Home Depot and Lowe’s rose as investors anticipated more business for the home improvement chains as people made repairs in the aftermath of the devastating storm. Home Depot gained $1.34 to $61.38 and Lowe’s rose $1.02 to $32.38.

Netflix soared $9.66 to $79.24 after financier Carl Icahn said he had bought a 10 percent stake in the troubled company.

Among the losers were insurers Chubb, Allstate and Travelers. Investors worried that the companies are most likely to suffer losses due to insurance claims. The trio have a large share of the insurance market in areas where Hurricane Sandy hit.

Chubb fell 98 cents to $76.98, Travelers dropped 62 cents to $70.94 and Allstate slipped 17 cents to $39.98.

Half of the ten industry sectors in the S&P 500 fell. Health-care stocks were down 0.7 percent, the biggest drop. Utility stocks led the gainers with a rise of 0.8 percent.

Stocks flitted between small gains and losses in the last hour of trading. The indexes started the day higher than the close on Friday, the last trading day. Then they dropped, and stayed in the red for much of the day.

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