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Business & Technology

Stocks little changed after Chinese market slides

March 4th, 2013 12:22 pm by STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were little changed on Wall Street Monday after the Chinese government announced new steps to cool the booming housing market in the world's second-largest economy.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13 points to 14,074 as of noon EST. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell less than a point to 1,518. The Nasdaq composite was off a fraction at 3,169.


Chinese markets were dragged down by housing stocks, which fell sharply after China's Cabinet ordered new measures to rein in home prices. The government said it will raise required minimum down payments in areas where prices are deemed to be rising too fast and crack down on efforts to evade limits on how many properties each buyer can acquire.


U.S. stocks are still close to record levels. The Dow came within 15 points of its record close of 14,164 on Thursday before sliding back and ending the day lower.


The stock market has rallied this year on optimism that the U.S. housing market is maintaining its recovery and signs that companies are slowly increasing hiring. Strong corporate earnings and continuing stimulus from the Federal Reserve have also boosted stock prices.


Despite having already logged strong gains this year, stocks may still be able to maintain their momentum as investors move money out of bonds, says Rob Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management.


"It's all about where the money is going," says Lutts. "If the money that is sitting on the sideline, or in bonds, is moving into equities that alone is enough to create that shift."


The Dow has advanced 7.3 percent so far this year and the S&P 500 is 6.3 percent higher, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note remains below 2 percent. The yield, which moves inversely to its price, rose 2 basis points to 1.86 percent Monday.


Investors put a net $2.8 billion of cash into U.S. equity mutual funds in the week ending Feb. 27, according to data from Lipper. That's the eighth straight week that investors have put more money into stocks, the longest streak of net inflows in almost two years.


Janet Yellen, vice chair of the Federal Reserve, said Monday that she does not see risks at the moment from the U.S. central bank's low-interest rate policies that would prompt her to urge that the policies be curtailed. The Fed is buying $85 billion per month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to push long-term interest rates lower.


Hess gained $2.46 to $69 after the company said it would get out of the retail business as well as energy trading and marketing to focus on exploration and production.


Yahoo! rose 57 cents to $22.51 after Barclays analysts raised their rating on the stock to "overweight" and increased their price target to $26. The bank says the value of the company's minority stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Japan are not fully reflected in the current stock price.


U.S. economic growth may be crimped this year by automatic government spending cuts of $85 billion, which took effect Friday after President Barack Obama and Congress failed to reach a budget deal. Both Republicans and Democrats pledged to retroactively undo the cuts, but gave no indication of how that process would take shape.


European markets were mixed. Crude oil edged down 82 cents to $89.86 and the dollar was little changed against the euro.

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