US STOCKS-Dow inches up to record close on quiet trading day

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 19, 2013 21:40 hrs

* Dow ends at second straight record high

* Oracle rallies after results; Red Hat up late

* U.S. jobless claims near 9-month high; home resales slide

* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P 500 down 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.3 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks finished mostly flat on Thursday as investors paused after a rally in the previous session, though the Dow closed at its second record high in a row.

The Nasdaq declined slightly on weakness in tech shares, though its loss was limited by a rally in Oracle Corp shares a day after the company's results.

Despite that, trading volume was below average. Many investors have already locked in their gains for the year ahead of the coming holidays. About 5.53 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data.

"There's a lot of transparency in the market, but most of the noise has been made," said Mark Martiak, senior wealth strategist at Premier Wealth/First Allied Securities in New York. "We should expect to continue seeing light volume and not much selling."

Wednesday's rally came after the Federal Reserve announced a plan to trim its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion, beginning in January. The statement was accompanied by a dovish indication of rock-bottom interest rates for the foreseeable future, a combination that gave the Dow and the S&P 500 their largest daily gains in two months.

Oracle's stock jumped 5.8 percent to $36.60 a day after the No. 2 software maker reported earnings that beat expectations and gave a bullish revenue outlook. The stock was the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer.

Red Hat Inc shares jumped 8.2 percent to $53 in extended-hours trading following the company's third-quarter results, which were released after the bell. The stock had ended the regular session at $49, up 0.2 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 11.11 points, or 0.07 percent, to finish at 16,179.08, a record closing high. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dipped 1.05 points, or 0.06 percent, to end at 1,809.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 11.93 points, or 0.29 percent, to close at 4,058.14.

The Dow reached an all-time intraday high of 16,194.72 during the session, while the S&P 500 moved within 3 points of setting a new high. Both indexes are up more than 20 percent this year, with the rally largely fueled by the Fed's accommodative monetary policies.

Facebook shares fell 0.9 percent to $55.05 after the social network company announced the offering of 70 million shares, including more than 41 million shares from Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, worth about $2.3 billion. Zuckerberg's sale, partly to pay a tax bill, will reduce his voting power to 56.1 percent from 58.8 percent.

Among other tech names, Adobe Systems shares fell 1.5 percent to $58.13. Texas Instruments lost 1.5 percent to end at $42.46, weighing on the Nasdaq.

Target Corp said hackers might have stolen data from some 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who visited its stores during the first three weeks of the holiday season in the second-largest such breach reported by a U.S. retailer. The stock slid 2.2 percent to $62.15.

In the deals arena, Dish is considering a bid for T-Mobile US next year, according to people close to the matter, in what would be the satellite TV provider's second attempt at acquiring a major wireless operator. Dish rose 1 percent to $55.83, while T-Mobile gained 8.7 percent to $29.61.

Darden Restaurants said it would sell or spin off its Red Lobster business, buckling under pressure from activist investor Barington Capital Group after reporting another quarter of sliding profits. Darden's stock dropped 3.6 percent to $51.02.

In economic news, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest in nearly nine months, while home resales fell to the lowest in nearly a year. On the upside, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's index of factory activity rose slightly in December.

About 56 percent of the shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower, while about 60 percent of the issues traded on the Nasdaq ended down.

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