U.S. stocks largely flat after choppy session

09:24, June 17, 2010      

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U.S. stocks closed flat after fluctuating most of the session on Wednesday, as investors tried to identify direction amid economic data, oil spill and European debt worries.

Stocks rose from the day's lows and stabilized in late afternoon trading after BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said the oil firm will suspend payments of dividends. In a separate report, BP is said to be required to set up 20 billion U.S. dollars as escrow fund for Gulf oil spill victims.

BP shares ended 1.4 percent higher to 31.85 dollars in New York trading.

Stocks fell earlier after disappointing housing data and European debt concerns weighed on the market.

The Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes and apartments fell 10 percent in May, the month after the government ended its homebuyer tax credit program, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000.

Meanwhile, applications for new building permits, a sign of future activity, sank 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 574,000, the lowest level in a year.

The sharp drops added to concerns that U.S. housing sector was still struggling without the aid from federal stimulus program and could not fuel the recovery.

Meanwhile, new concerns over Spain's debt problem re-emerged in the market, pushing the premium that investors demand to hold 10-year Spanish government bonds rather than euro zone benchmark German Bunds to a euro lifetime high.

The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 4.69, or 0.05 percent, to 10,409.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 0.62, or 0.06 percent, to 1,114.61. The Nasdaq was up 0.05 point, basically flat in percentage change, to 2,305.93.



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