December 23, 2016 / 7:29 PM / 2 years ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street takes a breather after steep Trump rally

* Dow heads for seventh straight weekly gain

* Nov home sales at highest level in four months

* Fred’s higher after Alden Global Capital reports stake

* Dow and S&P almost flat, Nasdaq up 0.09 pct (Updates to afternoon)

By Noel Randewich

Dec 23 (Reuters) - Wall Street was flat on Friday as investors refrained from making big bets ahead of the holiday season, but the three major indexes were still on track to post weekly gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which briefly came within striking distance of the historic 20,000 level earlier this week, was set to record its seventh straight weekly gain.

Following a sharp rally since the Nov. 8 U.S. election, the Dow is up about 14 percent for the year and the S&P 500 is 11 percent higher on bets that the economy will benefit from President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for deregulation and infrastructure spending.

Additional gains will depend on how quickly and successfully Trump can deliver on his promises and whether he meets resistance from a U.S. Congress reluctant to widen the budget deficit, many investors believe.

“It’s going to get tough to get over that 20,000 mark. We can do it, but it’s going to take a catalyst to move investors,” said Jeff Kravetz, a Phoenix-based regional investment director of the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank.

U.S. markets are shut for the Christmas holiday on Monday.

At 2:08 p.m. ET, the Dow was virtually flat at 19,919.13 points and the S&P 500 had edged up 0.01 percent to 2,261.28.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 0.09 percent to 5,452.42.

The S&P 500 energy index dipped 0.28 percent while the health index rose 0.69 percent, boosted by Allergan’s 2.57 percent gain.

Economic data showed new single-family home sales rose to their highest levels in four months in November, increasing 5.2 percent to 592,000 last month.

Fred’s rose 4.89 percent after Alden Global Capital reported a stake of 24.8 percent in the discount store operator.

Weight Watchers International jumped 7.37 percent, surging for a second day after television celebrity and major shareholder Oprah Winfrey said in a new ad for the company that she lost 40 pounds.

Cintas fell 3.34 percent after the uniforms supplier cut the lower end of its revenue forecast.

Synergy Pharmaceuticals jumped 17.29 percent after the drug developer said data showed its irritable bowel syndrome treatment met the main goal.

While stocks will trade for the full day, the U.S. bond market closed at 2 p.m. ET.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.45-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 7 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 59 new highs and 28 new lows. (Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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