(AP) -- A day of quiet trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with major U.S. stock indexes posting slight losses for the second day in a row.
Banks and energy companies led the slide, while high-dividend stocks like utilities, real estate investment trusts and phone companies rose as bond yields fell. The price of U.S. crude oil closed lower.
Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market, nudging the Russell 2000 slightly higher.
Trading was light ahead of the New Year's Day holiday.
"The market is just taking a breather here," said Jeff Zipper, managing director of investments for The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. "We moved so much in the month of November, there may be some profit-taking, maybe positioning for the first quarter."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.90 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,819.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.66 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,249.26 The Nasdaq composite lost 6.47 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,432.09.
The Russell 2000, which tracks small companies, added 2.35, or 0.2 percent, at 1,363.18.
The major stock market indexes eked out small gains in early trading Thursday. But by midmorning, they drifted mostly lower and remained in the red the rest of the day.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.47 percent from 2.51 percent late Wednesday.
More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sears jumped 10 percent after the struggling retailer said it had secured a new line of credit. The stock added 82 cents to $9.
Newmont Mining climbed 7.6 percent, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. The stock added $2.49 to $35.27.
Investors got some favorable economic data from the Labor Department, which reported that fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a nearly two-year trend that suggests a solid job market. Weekly requests for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. Over the past year, the number of people collecting benefits has fallen almost 5 percent to 2.1 million.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 29 cents to close at $53.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to close at $56.14 a barrel in London.
Markets overseas were mixed. Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent, while France's CAC 40 closed 0.2 percent lower. Britain's FTSE 100 ended the day with its second record-close in two days, trading 0.2 percent higher at 7,120.26 points.
British stocks have benefited from a decline in the value of the pound against other world currencies, which tends to drive up earnings for the multinationals and energy companies that dominate the index.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.3 percent, while South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added a penny to $1.68 a gallon and heating oil held steady at $1.70 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 10 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $3.80 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The price of gold rose $17.20, or 1.5 percent, to $1,158.10 an ounce. Silver added 18 cents to $16.22 an ounce. Copper fell a penny to $2.49 a pound.
In currency trading, the dollar fell to 116.65 yen from 117.19 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0485 from $1.0407.