U.S. stocks opened lower, as investors remained cautious heading into the final trading days of the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 15 points, or 0.1%, to 12241. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was off two points, or 0.2%, to 1263 and the Nasdaq Composite shed six points, or 0.2%, to 2619.

Pulling on the downside were materials and financial stocks. Bank of America was again the worst performer among Dow components, falling 1%. The stock has tumbled 59% this year. Limiting the declines were gains among consumer-staple and energy stocks.

Investors are treading water after a four-day run last week that saw the Dow rise 4.5%. On Tuesday, the Dow slipped three points, but the S&P 500 eked out a gain that extends its winning streak to five days. That day’s action came amid the weakest full-day volume of the year, with just over two billion shares changing hands in New York Stock Exchange composite volume. Activity is expected to remain light during the holiday-shortened week.

Bloomberg News

The Dow slipped 3 points on Tuesday.

European markets reversed earlier losses Wednesday to trade broadly higher as a successful auction of Italian Treasury bills helped lift investor spirits. The Stoxx Europe 600 edged up 0.1%, after shedding 0.5% at its intraday low.

Demand for Italian six-month bills increased from the previous auction, and the average yield of 3.251% was half of the 6.504% average, a euro-era high, paid a month earlier for the same maturity.

Stocks had declined earlier as the use of the European Central bank’s overnight deposit facility reached a second-straight record raised worries that banks would rather park cash there rather than lend it to other banks.

Asian bourses were mostly lower. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average slipped 0.2%, but China’s Shanghai Composite edged up 0.2%, pulling it off the lowest close since March 2009, hit Tuesday.

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