Stocks budge little amid light trading

NEW YORK — Stocks were little changed Monday as investors focused on strong holiday shopping results and looked past an interest rate hike in China.

Many traders stayed home because of the snow, but the absence of selling points to growing confidence about the U.S. economy. Data from MasterCard Advisors’ Spending Pulse survey estimates that U.S. retail sales between Nov. 5 and Dec. 24 rose 5.5 percent from last year. Wall Street is anticipating that today’s consumer confidence index for December will reflect this optimism.

Also expected today is the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller house price index for October, which may not capture the exuberance seen in other more recent economic indicators.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down 18.46 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,555.03. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index gained 0.8, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,257.54. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.7 points, also less than 0.1 percent, to 2,667.27. Monday’s trading was particularly light after a massive blizzard swept the Northeast, disrupting commutes for many people in New York’s financial industry. Activity was already expected to be slow in a week sandwiched between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

China’s move over the weekend was the second time in three months that the country took steps to slow the pace of its economic expansion. Inflation jumped to its highest levels in two years in November. Any slowdown in China affects companies worldwide and can drive a decline in many stock markets. Bank of America Corp. estimates that emerging markets like China account for 80 percent of the world’s economic growth.

In the U.S., financial stocks were up. American International Group shares rose 9 percent to $59.38 after the bailed-out insurer said it obtained $3 billion in credit facilities, marking another step on its road to recovery.

Bank of America shares closed up nearly 2 percent to $13.27, while Citigroup was up 2 percent to $4.77.

Consolidated volume of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange totaled 2æbillion. Gaining stocks outpaced losing stocks four to three.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose slightly to 3.34 percent.