Wall St mixed as investors pause

Dow Jones, with a staff reporter

United States stocks closed mixed, but mostly higher as the Dow and S&P extending winning streaks while tough losses in Apple weighed on technology-stock benchmarks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 135.54 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,326.60 points, marking a third-straight triple-digit gain. The average has risen in six of September's seven trading sessions. 

The S&P 500 index rose 5.14 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,689.13 points, with eight of 10 sectors higher.

The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 4.01 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 3,725.01 points. 

Read Adam Carr's 'SCOREBOARD: Pretty penny' here.

The S&P 500 rose for the seventh straight session Wednesday, its longest winning streak since July. The index is up 18 per cent this year. 

"The market is amazingly resilient," Wells Fargo Private Bank deputy chief investment officer Erik Davidson said.

"There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but it just keeps marching higher." 

The S&P 500 declined 4.4 per cent in August as tensions rose surrounding the potential for military action in Syria. But shares have reclaimed much of those losses in this month, rising 3.4 per cent as investors say they see tensions subsiding. 

"Every time you have some sort of negative news for the equity market, the sellers come in, and a few days later, the sellers look silly and get punished," Credit Suisse Group AG US head of program trading at Viren Chandrasoma said.

Apple slumped 5.4 per cent a day after it unveiled two new iPhone offerings. The stock had rallied 11 per cent in the month leading up to the announcement. The stock's losses weighed on the S&P 500's technology sector, which dropped 0.5 per cent. 

Next week's Federal Reserve policy-setting meeting is now on investors' radar, as markets have seen swings in recent months on discussions of a rolling back of Fed stimulus efforts. 

Steven Wieting, global chief investment strategist with Citi Private Bank, said he expects the Fed to cut its monthly purchases of Treasury bonds by between $10 billion and $15 billion. He said that "move has been largely priced in" to the stock market. 

Still, "I wouldn't want to say that all volatility and concern about the Fed is completely out of the way at this point," Mr Wieting said. He expects investors to keep questioning the Fed's next moves even after its initial cut to bond purchases. 

Talk of a pullback from the Fed has pushed Treasury yields up in recent months. On Wednesday, the yield on the 10-year note declined to settle at 2.920 per cent. 

That is more than a percentage point higher than where it started the year. But this week's rally reflects that the long-term rise in Treasury yields "is no longer shocking to people," said Mr Chandrasoma. 

Consumer stocks were among the gainers in the S&P 500, with consumer-discretionary shares rising 0.8 per cent and consumer-staples shares adding 0.7 per cent. MasterCard said Wednesday that card purchases and other transactions accelerated in July and August, a positive sign for consumer spending. 

Traders were puzzled by a broad selloff in utilities shares. The sector was the worst performer in the S&P 500, down 1.1 per cent in late trading. The group often trades as a proxy for the bond market, but Treasurys rose in Wednesday trading after a strong auction, pushing the yield on the 10-year note lower. Executives from companies in the sector were speaking at a conference in New York, but traders said they hadn't seen any statements that would have sparked the selloff. 

European markets closed higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.4 per cent, with improving jobs data out of the U.K. lending support. The unemployment rate for the three months to July fell to 7.7 per cent in Britain, below expectations of 7.8 per cent. 

Asian markets were mostly higher. China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.2 per cent to a three-month high, and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average inched up less than 0.1 per cent. 

Crude-oil futures gained 0.2 per cent to settle at $107.56 a barrel. Gold futures edged down less than 0.1 per cent to settle at $1,363.90 a troy ounce. The dollar lost ground against the euro and the yen. 

Earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said the number of mortgage applications filed in the latest week fell 14 per cent from the previous week, amid rising mortgage rates. Wholesale inventories for July rose 0.1 per cent on the month, below expectations for a 0.3 per cent increase. 

Dow component Verizon Communications rose 0.1 per cent as the company sold a record-setting $49 billion of bonds Wednesday to help fund the planned buyout of its US wireless partner. The bond sale eclipsed Apple's record corporate-bond offering of $17 billion. 

Texas Instruments slipped 0.7 per cent after the semiconductor maker narrowed the range of its forecast for third-quarter earnings and revenue, in line with expectations. The stock closed Tuesday at a 12-year high.