NEW YORK - THE Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 index touched its highest point in more than four years, yesterday. But a morning rally faded and stock indexes were down slightly by the afternoon.
The S&P was down one point at 1,417 shortly before 2:00 pm, with bank stocks up the most and telecommunications companies down the most. Earlier in the day, the S&P climbed to 1,426, its highest since May 19, 2008.
Sean Clark, chief investment officer at Clark Capital Management Group, an investment advisory firm, saw no major news driving the market. Trading volume has been light in recent days.
Clark said that part of the explanation for the stock market's steady climb this month is that some money managers are afraid of missing out on the rally.
"A lot of fund managers have underperformed this year, and I think they're feeling pressure," he said. "There may have been some panic buying over the last couple of weeks."
In other trading, the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 22 points to 13,245, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 10 points to 3,066. Crude oil hit its highest price in three months, rising US$1.32 ($117) to US$97.58.
Clark Yingst, chief market analyst at the securities firm Joseph Gunnar, thought traders were swayed by talk that the European Central Bank may launch a bond-buying effort to support the region's troubled countries.
Yingst pointed to currency moves and bank stocks as evidence. JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and other companies with ties to Europe rose more than the overall market.
Facebook's stock sank three per cent after one of its earliest backers, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, sold the bulk of his stake in the social network. Last week was the first time some insiders could sell their shares.
Yesterday, Facebook's stock lost 73 cents to US$19.28. It went public in May at almost twice that price, US$38.