By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 snapped a four-session winning streak on Wednesday to end just shy of a third straight record closing high.
The benchmark index had gained for four straight sessions as investors' appetite for equities has been buoyed by supportive U.S. economic data recently and expectations of monetary easing by the European Central Bank. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note's yield slipped below 2.44 percent, its lowest level since July.
"We are due for a sideways trending market for a short while, a period of consolidation following a four-day rally and also with the broad equities being at or near all-time highs," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.
"This is a split-personality market with the S&P at or near all-time highs in anticipation of an improving economy and higher earnings, while the bond market and yields continue to drop, suggesting maybe caution is warranted."
The drop in fixed-income yields could lift the prices of dividend-paying stocks. The S&P utilities index rose 0.5 percent. It was the S&P 500's best-performing sector.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average extended its run into record territory, ending at a lifetime high of 8,075.88 after hitting a record intraday high of 8,102.44. On Tuesday, the DJ Transportation Average closed above 8,000 for the first time. When the transports sector does well and is confirmed by a similar move in the Dow industrials, the trend signals an improved outlook for the U.S. economy and the stock market.
A total of 225 stocks on the Big Board and Nasdaq touched 52-week highs, while 59 issues hit 52-week lows. Notables touching 52-week highs included ConocoPhillips and Dow Chemical.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.32 points or 0.25 percent, to 16,633.18. The S&P 500 lost 2.13 points or 0.11 percent, to end at 1,909.78. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 11.99 points or 0.28 percent, to 4,225.08.
The S&P 500 index hit 1,914.46 during the session, an intraday record high. It remains in the 1,910 area seen as technical resistance. Support stands at 1,900 and then at the 14-day moving average, now near 1,889.
Among retailers, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd climbed 1.3 percent to $97.01 following the company's quarterly earnings as sales of its handbags and watches surged in North America. But the company cautioned it expected the cost of opening new stores in Europe to depress gross margins in the next few quarters.
In contrast, footwear retailer DSW lost more than a fourth of its market value after the company missed estimates on its results and outlooks. The stock sank 27.4 percent to $23.62.
Volume was modest, with about 5.38 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 5.79 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets. Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 16 to 15, while on the Nasdaq, eight stocks fell for every five that rose.
(Additonal reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)