On the day before the US presidential election, stock indexes managed slight gains in thin trading.
After wavering between small gains and losses, the Dow Jones industrial average ended with a gain of 19.28 points to start the week, closing at 13,112.44 last night.
Uncertainty surrounding the election will prevent most investors from making any big moves before it is over, said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at the brokerage Charles Schwab.
National polls show President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a tight race. The two candidates are spending the final days of the campaign holding rallies in Ohio and other states considered crucial to winning the White House.
“I honestly think the markets are going to sit here and mark time,” Mr Frederick said. “The markets have a tendency to trade sideways before big news events, and nothing is bigger than a presidential election.”
Mr Frederick said he believes that no matter who wins, the stock market is likely surge once it is over for the sole reason that investors will know the name of the next president.
But that is assuming there’s a winner by Wednesday. If the election comes down to a thin margin in a swing state, the outcome could be delayed for days.
In other trading today, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 3.06 points to 1,417.26, while the Nasdaq composite index climbed 17 points to 2,999.66.
Just 2.9 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, well below the recent average.
Apple rose 7.82 dollars to 584.62 dollars. The company said it sold three million iPads in the three days after launching a smaller version, the Mini. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said the iPad Mini is “practically sold out.”
In the market for US government debt, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.68%, down from 1.72% late on Friday.
There was only one major economic report, a measure of activity among so-called service companies, which employ about 90% of the American workforce.
The Institute for Supply Management’s service-sector index showed growth in October, but at a slower pace than in September, and just short of what economists expected.
In Europe, renewed focus on Greece’s economic problems combined with uncertainty over the US election to push markets lower. Germany’s benchmark index, the DAX, dropped 0.5%, and the CAC-40 in France fell 1.3%.
“With the race so close, investors are understandably risk-averse today,” said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Alpari, a London brokerage.
Among stocks making big moves:
- Tesla Motors jumped 9% after the maker of rechargeable electric cars said it was now producing enough of its Model S cars to generate positive cash flow. Tesla, the brainchild of PayPal billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, now has two all-electric models on the market, the 109,000 Roadster and the new Model S. The company’s stock gained 2.58 dollars to 31.50 dollars.
- Stifel Financial said it reached an agreement to buy the investment bank KBW in a $575m (€447.8m) deal. The boards of both companies have already signed off, but shareholders of KBW and regulators must follow suit. KBW’s stock leapt 1.17 dollars to 17.47 dollars.
- Time Warner Cable lost 6%, the biggest drop of any company in the S&P 500. The country’s second-largest cable company posted earnings this morning that fell short of analysts’ predictions. Time Warner reported stronger revenue across most of its businesses but lost 140,000 cable TV subscribers in three months. The company’s stock fell 6.24 dollars to 91.93 dollars.