Stocks down slightly as investors lock in 2010 | NevadaAppeal.com

Stocks down slightly as investors lock in 2010

NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks dipped Thursday as investors locked in their positions at the end of the year.

While U.S. markets fell slightly, stocks are set to end 2010 on an upbeat note: The S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average are both up 14 percent for the year, after dividends, thanks to record corporate profits. The Dow is back to levels last seen in August 2008, prior to the heat of the financial crisis, while the S&P might just eke out the best December in 20 years.

Some investors are taking the last week of the month to sell and notch their profits. Others are selling stocks or funds that have lost money in order to reap the tax benefits.

The Dow Jones industrial average was off 15.67 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,569.7. The S&P 500 edged down 1.9, or 0.2 percent, to 1,257.88. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index fell 3.95, or 0.2 percent, to 2,662.98.

The National Association of Realtors said the number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose in November, the fourth increase since contract signings hit a low in June. Its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes increased 3.5 percent.

However, with mortgage rates creeping up, investors worried over its effect on home sales. The average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week to 4.86 percent, the highest level in seven months.