Shares mostly flat ahead of holiday; oil slips

Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:29pm EST
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By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. shares ended flat on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials eking out a record close after the latest data showed strength in the world's largest economy, while a mixed economic picture in Europe kept the region's stocks largely in check.

Oil prices resumed declines after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a large build in U.S. crude stockpiles. Analysts had expected a seasonal draw, and the report fed worries about a supply glut.

The latest U.S. data buoyed shares and pushed the S&P 500 to a record intraday high, but investors ultimately found few reasons to push major U.S. share indexes to their sixth straight day of gains.

The Labor Department said U.S. weekly jobless claims fell for the fourth straight week, beating forecasts for a slight increase. A day earlier, the Commerce Department's final estimate of U.S. third-quarter economic growth indicated the quickest pace in over a decade.

U.S. equity markets operated on a shortened trading schedule, closing at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) ahead of the Christmas Day holiday on Thursday.

"Sentiment is still positive, but investors are wary of what lies ahead in 2015," said Wayne Lin, portfolio manager at QS Investors in New York. He said the uncertain impact of low oil prices on the global economy was one reason to trim positions in U.S. stocks.

European shares ended mostly flat in a shortened session after mixed economic data. Another set of record unemployment figures in France weighed on the Paris market, while data showed that British workers' productivity had a long-awaited improvement in the third quarter.

MSCI's all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS was last up 0.11 percent at 420.56. Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 closed up 0.01 percent at 1,374.92.   Continued...

A man looks at an electronic board displaying Japan's Nikkei average (top C) and the stock price indexes of various countries outside a brokerage in Tokyo September 4, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato