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Thursday, November 1, 2012

US Stocks close out weak month with a whimper (ext.CNN)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks ended a weak month on a mixed note Wednesday as the markets reopened following a two-day closure due to Hurricane Sandy.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 0.1%, while the S&P 500 ended flat. The Nasdaq lost 0.4%. For the month, the Dow fell 2.4%, the S&P 500 sank 1.9%, and the Nasdaq logged a 4.5% decline.

Many expected trading volume to spike Wednesday after Wall Street spent two unscheduled days in the dark. But the number of shares trading hands was held in check as many investors were still without power and transportation remained limited in New York City.

"There is some pent-up demand to trade after being closed for two days," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets. "But you have to balance that with the fact that many folks are still not able to get back to work."

"I think it's a symbol that makes everybody feel better -- that says we're back on our feet, we're open for business," Leibowitz said from the floor of the exchange.

Still, traders were reluctant to place big bets on the first day after such an unusual event. In addition, many investors are taking a cautious approach ahead of next week's presidential election and the economic threat posed by the looming fiscal cliff. 
"A day like today, you just sit on your hands," said David Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Canaccord Genuity.

Wednesday marks the end of the month and is the final day of the fiscal year for many institutional investors.
It's a day when many mutual fund managers will try to offset their capital gains with their losses to minimize distributions paid out to shareholders. However, some managers may have done their so-called "window dressing" last week in anticipation of the storm.

"This was a pretty well-advertised storm," said Hogan. "I think some of that work of closing the books might have been done last week."

Economy: Investors are also gearing up for the crucial October jobs report, which is the final reading on the health of the job market before the presidential election next week. While there had been some concern about the report being delayed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the report will come out on Friday morning as scheduled. 

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound but gained ground versus the Japanese yen.

Oil for December delivery rose 50 cents to $86.18 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery gained $7 to settle at $1,719.10 an ounce.

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