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US: Stocks end little-changed; Dow -0.1%


[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished little-changed Monday, shrugging off a drop in oil prices to hold most of the gains from Friday's rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 17.12 points (0.10 per cent) to 16,449.18.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.86 (0.04 per cent) to 1,939.38, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 6.41 (0.14 per cent) to 4,620.37.

Analysts were relieved the market avoided a sell-off after big gains Thursday and Friday, suggesting fewer investors are looking to exit holdings at any sign of a rebound.

"The market may be stabilizing," said Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management. "I'm not ready to say the market is going back to the December highs." The flat performance came in spite of a drop in oil prices that hit many petroleum equities. Dow member ExxonMobil lost 2.0 per cent, while EOG Resources shed 2.7 per cent.

Chinese manufacturing activity contracted at its fastest pace in more than three years in January with the purchasing managers index dropping to 49.4, its sixth straight month in contraction territory below a 50 reading.

US data was likewise lackluster, with reports showing manufacturing activity contracted for the fourth straight month in January and flat consumer spending for December.

In technology stocks, Facebook and Netflix both gaining 2.5 per cent and Priceline climbing 1.9 per cent.

Google parent Alphabet rose 1.2 per cent during trade and then another 5.7 percent after hours when it reported that fourth-quarter earnings rose 5.3 per cent to US$4.9 billion. The post-session gains pushed Alphabet ahead of Apple to be the world's largest publicly traded company by market value.

Chipotle Mexican Grill jumped 4.3 per cent as the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said two E.coli outbreaks that afflicted customers "appear to be over."

Twitter jumped 6.6 per cent following a report that tech investors Marc Andreessen and Silver Lake Partners are weighing acquiring a large stake in the microblogging company.

Diagnostics company Alere rocketed 45.5 per cent higher on news it agreed to be acquired by Abbott Laboratories for US$5.8 billion. Abbott added 1.6 per cent Natural gas company Questar surged 22.6 per cent on news it agreed to be acquired by Dominion Resources for US$4.4 billion. Dominion fell 2.8 per cent.