NEW YORK – Wall Street stopped to catch its breath Wednesday,cashing in gains from a rally that lifted the Standard & Poor's 500 index more than 18 percent over six sessions. Stocks showed little change after a report that the U.S. services sector contracted sharply in October.
Investors were collecting profits after the market's runup, including a rally Tuesday that sent the Dow up more than 300 points on expectations that battered stocks would enjoy a traditional year-end rally. Analysts said the market anticipated a win by Barack Obama in the presidential election, and so the voting had little if any impact on Wednesday's trading.
"It's virtually all technical, psychological, and very little to do with politics," said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "Everyone was buying the rumor yesterday and selling the news today ... The market had not only anticipated an Obama victory, but from what I'm gleaning, pretty much a Democratic sweep.
"Everything pretty much occurred as expected, so now we're kind of moving on to the next thing," he said. Most investors are probably focusing on the Labor Department's October employment report Friday, he said.
Economists on average expect a 200,000 drop in payrolls, according to Thomson/IFR. Employers have been slashing jobs after a freeze-up in the credit markets crippled many companies' ability to get financing.
The Institute for Supply Management said the services sector index fell to 44.4 in October from 50.2 in September. That's a steeper drop than the market expected, but analysts said investors have largely factored in negative economic news for the time being. So the major indexes, already down in early trading, showed little change in response to the ISM report.
In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 105.21 points, or 1.09 percent, to 9,520.07.
The S&P 500 index fell 8.68, or 0.86 percent, to 997.07, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 19.96, or 1.12 percent, to 1,760.16.