Wall Street closes flat as investors ponder interest rates, Greece

Tue Jun 9, 2015 5:00pm EDT
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By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended Tuesday virtually unchanged after a choppy trading day with investors hesitant to make bets while a sharp increase in oil prices failed to boost energy stocks.

The benchmark S&P 500 index's .SPX best performer was the consumer staples sector .SPLRCS, which is seen as a defensive bet because consumers still buy basics even in a downturn.

Investors are making more defensive bets because of uncertainty about what will happen in Greece and the timing for U.S. interest rate hikes, on top of worries about a possible market correction after five years of gains, said Dennis Dick, proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas.

"When you start to see the defensives as your leaders it's typically getting to the end of our cycle," he said. "When I'm seeing the market get more defensive it makes me nervous."

Crude oil prices jumped more than 3 percent as bulls ramped up bets across the oil complex for another weekly drop in U.S. stockpiles. [O/R]

Yet the S&P energy sector .SPNY ended down 0.05 percent after rising as much as 1 percent earlier in the session.

"I think people are perceiving (the price rise) as a more short-term phenomenon. There's some stronger and larger forces at work, such as OPEC is not changing its posture with respect to production," said Matthew Kaufler, portfolio manager at Federated Clover Investment Advisors in Rochester, New York.

The S&P 500's financial sector .SPSY gained as investors bet it would benefit from a U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike this year, said Andrew Frankel, co-president of Stuart Frankel & Co in New York.   Continued...

Traders work at their screens in front of the German share price index DAX board at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany June 9, 2015.       REUTERS/Stringer