Volatility was back in the markets on Thursday as the Dow swung triple digits only to close the day near the flat line. The catalyst for the mid-day sell-off, after the major averages opened near unchanged, was remarks from Senator Harry Reid who said that the United States may be poised to go over the "fiscal cliff." The Dow was down well over 100 points at its worst levels, but a late day rally erased most of the market damage by the close.
The Dow finished the session down just 18 points at 13,096 on Thursday. The widely watched blue-chip index traded in a range between 12,964 and 13,142.
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) shed 0.13 percent to close at $141.56. Volume was heavier than normal despite it being only two days after Christmas. Around 147 million SPY shares traded hands on the session versus a three-month daily average of 137 million.
The PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF (QQQ), which tracks the performance of the Nasdaq 100, lost 0.16 percent to trade at $64.40. At its worst levels of the day; the Nasdaq 100 traded down over 1 percent.
Crude oil was largely unchanged after a Wednesday rally. NYMEX crude futures, the U.S. benchmark, were last trading up 0.04 percent to $91.05 in the electronic session while Brent contracts had lost 0.09 percent to $110.97. In ETF trading, the United States Oil Fund (USO) closed the equity session up 0.15 percent to $33.19.
Precious metals were higher on the day. In electronic trading, COMEX gold futures were last up 0.23 percent to $1,664.50 while silver futures had added 0.55 percent to $30.20. The heavily traded SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) closed the equity session with a gain of 0.22 percent to $161.16.
Treasurys rose for much of the day as the stock market was falling, but gave back some of their gains when equities snapped back in the afternoon. The iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) rose 0.34 percent to $122.61. The yield on the 10-Year Note fell 2 basis points to 1.73 percent.
The U.S. dollar was essentially flat on the day. The PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish ETF (UUP), which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of foreign currencies, added 0.02 percent to $21.76. The closely watched EUR/USD pair was last trading up 0.08 percent to $1.3237.
By Scott Rubin