Investors found little reason to buy stocks on Monday as the Dow and S&P 500 ended barely changed, suggesting that even several days of losses have not convinced institutions share prices are attractive.
A smattering of strength in technology shares boosted the Nasdaq modestly, but just 5.73 billion shares traded on the combined NYSE Arca, Nasdaq and American Stock Exchanges for the lowest daily volume of the year.
Trading volume remains anemic as traders and portfolio managers found little reason to get excited enough to make a decision, said Scott Fullman, director of derivative investment strategy at WJB Capital Group.
The biggest losers were education stocks, which tumbled on concerns federal regulators will impose tighter controls on student loans. Corinthian Colleges
Strayer Education Inc
Those anticipating a rebound after four days of losses were also disappointed by early economic releases that suggested more weakness in housing and regional manufacturing.
Reflecting growing fears of deflation, U.S. Treasury prices rose with the 10-year yield hitting a 17-month low.
There is no catalyst for the (stock) market as economic indicators only pile up on the negative side, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 1.14 points, or 0.01 percent, at 10,302.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.13 point, or 0.01 percent, at 1,079.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 8.39 points, or 0.39 percent, at 2,181.87.
On the Nasdaq, Cisco Systems Inc
The PHLX semiconductor index <.SOX> advanced 0.5 percent, while its relative strength index hit its lowest point since November 2008 on Friday. The RSI, which determines whether stocks are oversold or overbought, fell to 31.4, right above the oversold indicator at 30, indicating a security or index was relatively cheap.
Lowe's Cos Inc
U.S. homebuilder sentiment unexpectedly fell for a third straight month in August to its lowest level since March 2009, according to an industry survey.
A gauge of manufacturing in New York state was up in August, the New York Fed said, but a new orders component index fell below zero for the first time since June 2009, an early sign of a slowdown.
Volume was about 41 percent lower than last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
On the New York Stock Exchange, advancers beat decliners 1880 to 1090. On Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners 1624 to 1008.
(Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Kenneth Barry)