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US: Stocks pause ahead of Fed testimony

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[NEW YORK] US stocks finished little changed on Monday following lackluster housing data on the eve of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 23.60 points (0.13 per cent) to 18,116.84.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.64 (0.03 per cent) to 2,109.66, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.01 (0.10 per cent) at 4,960.97.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 finished at record highs on Friday.

US existing-home sales slowed to their lowest pace in nine months in January, the National Association of Realtors said.

Ms Yellen appears Tuesday and Wednesday for twice-yearly Capitol Hill hearings to provide the US central bank's assessment of the US economy and when it will be ready for a raise in interest rates from near zero.

Apple jumped 2.7 per cent to a new all-time high as the tech giant continues to enjoy momentum from strong iPhone sales and positive buzz over its Apple Watch launch in April.

Dow member Boeing tumbled 2.3 per cent after it was downgraded by Goldman Sachs.

Canadian company Valeant Pharmaceuticals International leaped 14.7 per cent after announcing it would acquire US company Salix Pharmaceuticals in a deal valued at US$14.5 billion. Salix, which is known for its treatments of gastrointestinal maladies, fell 1.3 per cent.

Tesla Motors fell 4.5 per cent following an "underperform" rating from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which called its long-term growth targets "quite difficult to fathom" in light of weak near-term financial performance.

Pay-television company Dish Network dropped 1.2 per cent after announcing that Dish co-founder and chairman Charles Argen will take over as president and chief executive following the retirement of Joseph Clayton. The company said earnings for 2014 climbed 17 per cent to US$945 million.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.06 per cent from 2.12 per cent Friday, while the 30-year dropped to 2.66 per cent from 2.72 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

AFP