Stock prices were mixed Thursday following the strong rally in the previous session.
The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 40.39 points to 15,636.55 after closing at a record high Wednesday. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.74 points to 3,789.38, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 3.18 points to 1,722.34.
Positive reports on existing home prices and leading economic indicators kept prices in a tight range throughout the day.
Gold posted its biggest one-day rally since 2009 in response to a sharp drop in the value of the dollar. The metal gained $61.70 to $1,369.30 an ounce. However, oil fell $1.68 to $106.39 a barrel.
ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) lost 4 percent after first-quarter sales missed estimates. Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) dropped 2.1 percent as Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) downgraded the shares. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) gained 1.6 percent as the iPhone maker rose for the third straight day. Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) surged 23 percent to $4.58 as the drugstore chain raised its profit forecast.
About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 13 percent above the three-month average.
The benchmark index climbed 1.2 percent to a record Wednesday as the Fed unexpectedly refrained from reducing bond buying. Treasury yields have jumped since May, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke first outlined a possible timetable for a reduction in asset purchases.
The Federal Open Market Committee said it wants more evidence of an economic recovery before paring its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, surprising economists who predicted a reduction in the plan. The Fed has held the main interest rate near zero since December 2008, and pushed its balance sheet to a record $3.66 trillion through three rounds of stimulus, helping send the S&P 500 155 percent higher since March 2009.
“To be fair to Bernanke, he set the conditions necessary for tapering and the conditions are not there,” Ross Yarrow, who sells U.S. equities to European investors for Robert W. Baird & Co. in London, said in an interview.
That’s “not because of any particular deterioration, but because, by talking about tapering, he already achieved an adjustment in yields,” Yarrow said.
Equity gauges, whose performance some chart analysts consider predictive of stock market gains, closed at records Wednesday, including the Dow Jones Transportation Average, the Russell 2000 Index and the Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index.
About 83 percent of the stocks in the S&P 500 rose above their average price over the past 50 days Wednesday, and a quarter of them reached their highest levels in 52 weeks or more, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Both measures hit their highest since Aug. 1, a day before the benchmark index peaked and started a 4.6 percent retreat.
Walt Disney dropped 2.1 percent to $65.72. Morgan Stanley cut Disney to equal weight from overweight, its first downgrade of the shares in more than four years, saying the company’s growth now depends more on its creative success. Disney delayed the Pixar film “The Good Dinosaur” by 18 months, leaving the animation studio that produced “Toy Story” without an annual release for the first time since 2005.
Banks had the largest decline among 24 groups in the S&P 500, falling 1 percent. Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION) fell 2.8 percent to $27.96 and KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY) retreated 3.9 percent to $11.60. Regional lenders had been rooting for the Fed to let interest rates rise, which would help bring relief to bankers who’ve seen lending margins squeezed and expenses pushed up by new technology and regulations.
Life insurer Lincoln National Corp. (NYSE: LCN) tumbled 3.7 percent to $42.21 and MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) lost 3.2 percent to $47.08. Insurers invest in bonds to back future obligations to policyholders and low yields can pressure profits.
Mining companies declined even as gold continued to rally. Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) retreated 3.5 percent to $29.78, after an 8.2 percent surge Wednesday. Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) slid 3.3 percent to $19.44.
Technology and industrial shares had the best performance among S&P 500 industries. Apple jumped 1.6 percent to $472.30. The stock has rallied 4.9 percent over three days, after an 11 percent slide since the Sept. 10 introduction of the newest iPhones.
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) increased 3.4 percent to $50.98 after announcing it will split into two public companies. One company will focus on life sciences, diagnostics and applied markets, retaining the Agilent name. The other will be made up of Agilent’s current portfolio of electronic measurement products, according to a statement.
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (Nasdaq: TTWO) advanced 1.3 percent to $17.43. The video game maker said first-day sales of “Grand Theft Auto V” topped $800 million worldwide, surpassing the record set by “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” last November.
-- Bloomberg News contributed to this report.