US stocks close mostly lower amid Fed taper talk

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - US stocks closed mostly lower on Tuesday amid renewed speculation about the Federal Reserve's intentions to reduce its massive monetary stimulus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which hit a record high Monday, lost 32.43 points (0.21 per cent) at 15,750.67.

The broad-based S&P 500 Index fell 4.20 (0.24 per cent) to 1,767.69, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite was flat, adding a scant 0.13 at 3,919.92.

In the absence of major economic news, investors focused on remarks by Federal Reserve officials for clues about when the central bank will decide to begin to reduce its US$85 billion (S$106.2 billion) a month asset-purchase program.

One of them, Richard Fisher, the head of the Dallas Fed, told CNBC that the Fed's balance sheet has become "bloated" and warned that "at some point, we will have to taper back on the pace of purchases."

"Mr. Fisher's hawkish leaning is well known, but it is beginning to resonate more since participants are cognizant that he will be a voting FOMC member in 2014," Mr Patrick O'Hare of said.

Mr Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed who also will become a voting FOMC member next year, raised the prospect of the Fed "possibly providing more stimulus." In corporate news, American Airlines's parent, AMR, and US Airways announced an agreement with the Justice Department to give up slots and other rights at seven key airports to overcome its antitrust lawsuit against their merger to create the world's largest airline.

US Airways shares gained 1.1 per cent, while AMR shares, traded over the counter as the company emerges from bankruptcy reorganization, gained 26.1 per cent.

Southwest Airlines shares rose 1.2 per cent and JetBlue Airways soared 6.1 per cent; under the deal, the two carriers will be able to buy slots they are currently leasing from American.

Rival US global carriers also rallied: United Continental Holdings rose 4.2 per cent and Delta Air Lines gained 2.4 per cent.

News Corp dropped 1.6 per cent. The publishing and newspaper segment of the recently split media empire of Mr Rupert Murdoch announced a modest profit but falling revenue in its first post-breakup results.

Dish Network leaped 6.0 per cent after swinging into a quarterly profit of US$315 million from a US$158 million loss a year ago.

Homebuilder giant DR Horton powered up 4.7 per cent after posting a 39 per cent rise in net income for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Home-improvement retailer Home Depot, Dow member, gained 1.1 per cent.

The bond market, which was closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday, retreated. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.77 per cent from 2.75 per cent Friday, while the 30-year yield advanced to 3.86 per cent from 3.84 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.