North American markets closed flat Monday as thin volume combined with concerns over Iraq and North Korea marked a seesaw session.
On the second last trading day of the year, the S&P/TSX composite index rose 21.72 points to 6,617.55 as eight of 13 subsectors were positive on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Shares of Barrick Gold Corp. and Nortel Networks Corp. were the most actively traded shares.
"People are still worried about the economy. ... It is just uncertainty in Iraq and rising oil prices aren't good for the economy. Buyers have just retreated," Michael Murphy, head trader at Wachovia Securities in Baltimore, told Associated Press.
The market was in danger of forfeiting entirely the so-called Santa Claus rally, which typically begins just before Christmas and runs through the end of the year. Historically, the last two weeks of the year are robust for Wall Street as investors get really optimistic about the new year.
New York's Dow Jones industrial average - a gauge of 30 blue chip stocks - rose 29.07 points to 8,332.85. General Electric Co. and Home Depot Inc. were among the most actives in New York.
The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that its sales were strong Christmas week - before and after the holiday - but that it still expects only a modest gain in sales.
Wal-Mart had earlier pulled back from its projection of a sales increase of 3 per cent to 5 per cent for the holiday season over 2001 in stores open at least a year. On Monday, the company stuck to its revised prediction that same-store sales would gain 2 per cent to 3 per cent.
Its shares rose $1.48 (U.S.) or 3 per cent to $50.64 on the NYSE.
Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Stock Market's composite index lost 8.77 points to 1,339.54. The broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 4 points to 879.39.
One Canadian dollar was worth 63.44 cents (U.S.), down 0.27 of a cent from Friday's Bank of Canada close.
The S&P/TSX Venture Exchange was down 4.97 points.