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U.S. stock markets have been uncharacteristically calm this year (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

U.S. stocks are little changed in early trading on a holiday Monday in Canada, as technology companies are rising while energy companies slip with the price of oil.

The Toronto Stock Exchange was closed on Monday but major U.S. indices were open, with lower trading volumes.

West Texas Intermediate, the most commonly traded North American variety of oil, lost about 30 cents or about one per cent to 49.27. That dragged down U.S. oil companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Anadarko. 

Tyson Foods gained 4.8 per cent as its forecasts pleased investors. Aviation electronics company Rockwell Collins climbed 5.4 per cent after Reuters reported that rival United Technologies made an offer to buy it.

Medical device company NxStage Medical jumped 28.5 per cent after it agreed to be bought by Fresenius Medical Care for $30 a share, or $1.97 billion.

“So far, it’s pretty quiet,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “It’s still summer, with overall things going pretty well, with the market at these all-time highs.”

While both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P500 were both slightly higher, for the year as a whole both have marched slowly and steadily higher.

Only twice this year have investors in the S&P 500 had to swallow a loss of more than 1 per cent in a day. Over the past 50 years, the S&P500 has typically done that about 26 times every year — not twice.

The Dow Jones, meanwhile, has crashed through the 20,000-point barrier for the first time earlier this year, and then followed that up by hitting 21,000 and then 22,000 last week.

“At the surface, it is surprising” how calm stocks have been, said Greg Davis, Vanguard’s chief investment officer. “But it’s not surprising if you think about a world where central banks have been unbelievably accommodative. I think investors still think central banks will step in if there’s any stress in the financial markets.”

Strategists at BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, say that the market tends to be either very calm or very volatile, and it’s not unusual for it to roll through long periods of tranquility before getting punctured by a bout of crisis.

“Low volatility does not necessarily mean markets are complacent,” BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist and others wrote in a recent report. “It is simply what we should expect — most of the time.”



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