US stocks dip

Stocks closed lower in New York today as markets followed what has become a pattern at the sputtering end of this fourth-quarter rally: Early gains narrow through the day’s trading and occasionally turn to losses. The major indexes finished the week mixed.

Stocks closed lower in New York today as markets followed what has become a pattern at the sputtering end of this fourth-quarter rally: Early gains narrow through the day’s trading and occasionally turn to losses. The major indexes finished the week mixed.

Today was one of the year’s four “quadruple-witching days”, so called because four kinds of options contracts expire. Historically, the days have meant higher than usual volatility and volume as investors cash in or renew their contracts; in 10 of the last 13 such days, the Dow Jones industrial average has closed higher, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

Today became one of the rare down witching days, with the Dow frittering away early, modest advances to turn negative.

Tech stocks drooped, perhaps on recent middling results from the sector’s big names, such as Oracle, which look worse compared to the sunny recent outlook statements from industrial companies such as General Electric and Honeywell International.

Still, by afternoon, all the day’s gains were gone. “It looks like the rally we saw from the October bottom until late November is sort of stalled,” said Joseph Sunderman, director of trading at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.08, or 0.06%, to 10,875.59.

Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 3.62, or 0.28%, to 1,267.32, and the Nasdaq composite index declined 8.15, or 0.36%, to 2,252.48.

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