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Stocks Slip From Highs in Thin Trading


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages slipped Monday as investors took some profits after recent strong gains in equities and watched for headlines from a meeting of eurozone finance ministers and developments on the "sequestration" talks in Washington.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 22 points, or 0.16%, at 13,971. The blue-chip index began the session up 6.5% this year.

Breadth finished negative, with losers overshadowing winners 16 to 13. The biggest laggards in the Dow were Home Depot (HD) , UnitedHealth(UNH) , Boeing(BA) and IBM(IBM) .

Bank of America (BAC) , Pfizer(PFE) and Microsoft(MSFT) were among the Dow components that were trading higher.

The S&P 500 lost about 1 point to 1,517. The index has risen for each of past six weeks.

The Nasdaq was lower by 2 points to 3,192, but still near a 12-year high of 3,200.

Sector action was mixed in the broader market, as basic materials, energy, capital goods and health care shares lost ground. The transportation, consumer-cyclical utilities and technology sectors edged higher.

John Burke, financial adviser at Burke Financial Strategies, said he sees long-term benefits in having the sequestration deadline kick in at the beginning of March.

"The biggest concern we have here is that the government is faced with an enormous budget deficit and that's forcing the Federal Reserve to try to compensate," Burke said.

The Fed, he noted, is supposed to be focusing on monetary policy only. "It never had to worry about the unemployment rate before ... they're printing money to try to keep this economy afloat, and now Japan's doing the same thing, so we have to start currency wars. These are things that have never been done before."

"We're worried that about the long-term consequences ... certainly it would be better if they could reduce the budget deficit."

On the eurozone finance ministers meeting taking place in Brussels, Burke said he hopes the officials will seriously discuss long-term solutions for the region's economic problems that they have so far avoided through "little solutions," including jobs growth in southern Europe.

Market volumes totaled a mere 2.6 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.54 billion on the Nasdaq on the heels of a snowstorm that hit the Northeast over the weekend and as Asian markets remained closed for public holidays.

Decliners outweighed advancers by a ratio of 1.2-to-1 on the Big Board and incrementally on the Nasdaq.

Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. on Sunday debated higher taxes as part of a proposal to avert $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, the so-called sequestration, that kicks in March 1.

Euro-area finance ministers are meeting Monday and Tuesday in Brussels to talk about potential aid for Cyprus, an update on how Greece is faring with its second rescue program, and proposals for direct bank bailouts by the region's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.