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US: Wall Street treads water as investors await inauguration

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street finished largely without direction on Wednesday, with the Dow falling for a fourth straight session as investors held their breaths ahead of Friday's inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

At the closing bell, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 0.1 per cent to 19,804.72, while the broader S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent to 2,271.89 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.3 per cent to 5,555.65.

Throughout the trading day, economic news failed to move markets in any particular direction.

The Labor Department reported that the Consumer Price Index, an important measure of inflation, continued to see steady gains in December, with one measure seeing its largest 12-month gain in two and a half years.

The US Federal Reserve reported that industrial production had jumped 0.8 per cent for the month and its Beige Book survey found respondents reporting that the US economy continued to grow while upward pressures on prices had intensified.

Chris Low of FTN Financial said the inflation data was "likely to be the last relatively quiet CPI report today for a while." "These were December numbers and they were modest but generally in February the energy components are going to increase dramatically so investors are going to keep an eye on it in the future." Mr Low described stock markets as "sleepy" ahead of the inauguration.

The pause in stocks this week come after Wall Street rallied for weeks in the wake of Mr Trump's shock White House win in November, perhaps in expectation of seeing economic stimulus that may not materialise in quite the fashion investors hope it will.

Financials, which had been so favoured in Wall Street's post-election rally, sank for the day.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs fell 0.6 per cent despite posting strong fourth-quarter revenue of US$8.17 billion which handily beat analyst expectations. Citibank fell even further, giving up 1.7 per cent even though it too beat analyst forecasts, reporting a quarterly profit of US$1.14 per share with net income up 7.1 per cent.

Also dragging the Dow lower were UnitedHealth Group, which fell 1.8 per cent, and Exxon Mobil, which sank 1.2 per cent.


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