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Published: Tuesday, 8/21/2012

S&P touches highest point since May 2008, but rally loses steam and leaves market flat

BY MATTHEW CRAFT
AP BUSINESS WRITER

NEW YORK — The Standard & Poor's 500 index touched its highest point in more than four years Tuesday, but an early rally faded on Wall Street, and stocks were flat by early afternoon.

The S&P was up two points at 1,420 just after noon EDT, with financial stocks rising the most. Earlier in the day, the S&P rose as high as 1,426, its highest level since May 19, 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down five points at 13,266, and the Nasdaq composite index was unchanged at 3,076.

Sean Clark, chief investment officer at Clark Capital Management Group, an investment advisory firm, said there was not a lot of news driving the market. Trading volume has been light with much of Wall Street on vacation.

Clark said that part of the explanation for the stock market's steady climb this month is that some money managers are afraid of missing a good thing.

"A lot of fund managers have underperformed this year, and I think they're feeling pressure," he said. "There may have been some panic buying over the last couple of weeks."

Facebook's stock sank 3 percent after one of its earliest backers, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, sold the bulk of his stake in the social network. Last week was the first time some insiders could sell their shares.

On Tuesday, Facebook stock lost 51 cents to $19.50. Facebook went public in May at almost twice that price, $38.

Best Buy fell 3 percent, the biggest loss in the S&P 500. The country's largest consumer electronics retailer reported a 90 percent drop in net income during the second quarter, dragged down by restructuring charges and weak sales.

The chain is waging a public fight with its former chairman and co-founder Richard Schulze, who wants to take the company private. Best Buy's stock dropped 43 cents to $17.71 and has lost 13 percent this week.

Major European markets edged up amid hints of progress in calming the region's debt crisis. Spain managed to raise $5.4 billion from bond investors at sharply lower interest rates than at the last such auction.

Germany's DAX added 0.8 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.9 percent.

Markets have been relatively calm this month, and volumes have thinned with fewer people on trading desks. Monday was one of the quietest days of the year, with 2.7 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In contrast, daily volume averaged 3.8 billion three months ago, and that was considered light.

Among other stocks making moves:

— Urban Outfitters jumped 17 percent. The clothing retailer reported earnings late Monday that beat analysts' forecasts, thanks to stronger sales. The stock surged $5.43 to $36.71.

— Barnes & Noble posted a smaller quarterly loss, helped by sales and e-books and surging sales of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" book. The largest traditional bookstore chain rose 4 cents to $12.37.



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