US stocks end quiet session mostly lower

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished a holiday-abbreviated session mostly lower on Thursday as a three-day rally waned in light trading volume.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 50.44 points (0.29 per cent) to 17,552.17.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 3.30 (0.16 per cent) to 2,060.99, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 2.56 (0.05 per cent) to 5,048.49.

Official data showed that US jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, dipped for the week ending Dec 24.

But news flow was generally light.

"Overall investors are looking at a very quiet market today," said David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management.

"There is little market news and little direction."

Heading into Thursday, the S&P 500 had gained 2.9 per cent through the first three trading days this week, encouraged in part by steadying oil prices and bouncing back from steep declines at the end of last week.

Oil prices were up again Thursday.

However, several petroleum-linked equities that had rallied Wednesday gave back some of their gains. Dow members Chevron and ExxonMobil shed 1.9 per cent and 1.1 per cent, while pipeline company Kinder Morgan dropped 2 per cent.

Dow member Nike fell 1.8 per cent, dropping for a second day in a row on concerns about high valuation.

Solar company SunEdison jumped 9.5 per cent after disclosing it was in talks with lenders on a new US$650 million (S$900 million) credit facility.

US equity markets are closed Friday for the Christmas holiday.