NEW YORK (AP) - A rally that drove major stock indexes up 7 percent this week stalled Thursday. Stock indexes ended slightly lower, a day after the market posted its biggest gain in two and a half years.
Goldman Sachs and other banks, the previous day's star-performers, gave up some of their gains. Costco, Nordstrom and other retailers rose after reporting stronger sales for November.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.65 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 12,020.03. Travelers Cos. Inc. lost 2.2 percent, the biggest drop of the Dow's 30 stocks.
The Dow soared 490 points Wednesday, its seventh-best gain on record, on news that central banks around the world slashed the cost of borrowing in order to shore up European banks and avert a deeper credit crisis in the region.
Another rise in applications for weekly unemployment benefits dampened the mood Thursday. The Labor Department said initial applications rose to 402,000 last week, the second weekly increase in a row. The figures didn't change expectations for the government's monthly labor report, which comes out today. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate will remain at 9 percent.
The S&P 500 index slipped 2.37, or 0.2 percent, to 1,244.59. The Nasdaq inched up 5.86, or 0.2 percent, to 2,626.
Investors often turn cautious following giant leaps, said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. The Dow shot up 813 points in the first three days of the week as fears ebbed that Europe's debt crisis would turn into a global panic. The rally got started Monday with news that a record number of shoppers went to stores over the Thanksgiving weekend.