By Caroline Valetkevitch
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended with big gains for November on Wednesday thanks to a sharp post-election rally but finished the day mostly lower as drops in utilities and technology offset energy's surge.
Energy shares jumped with oil prices after OPEC agreed to cut production. U.S. oil prices soared 9.3 percent, while the S&P energy index jumped 4.8 percent.
Bank shares also rose after comments by Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Treasury secretary, told CNBC that tax reforms and trade pact overhauls would be top priorities of the new administration.
Bank of America gained 4.5 percent, while Goldman Sachs ended up 3.6 percent and hit a high of $220.77, its best level since the financial crisis.
But top dividend payers like utilities and telecommunications companies, whose stocks tend to fall as interest rates rise, declined as U.S. bond yields jumped. The S&P utility index was down 3.2 percent, while shares of AT&T fell 2.2 percent.
Investor expectations are high that the Federal Reserve will raise benchmark U.S. interest rates at its December meeting.
"There's some symmetry in the day," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
"We've come a long way and we were biting off a lot of expectations as to what's to come. At some point the market is just due for a pause, and we may be in the midst of that now."
For the day, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 1.98 points, or 0.01 percent, to 19,123.58, the S&P 500 lost 5.85 points, or 0.27 percent, to 2,198.81 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 56.24 points, or 1.05 percent, to 5,323.68.
For November, the Dow rose 5.4 percent, its best monthly gain since March, while the S&P 500 was up 3.4 percent and the Nasdaq was up 2.6 percent.
All three indexes hit record highs this month. Investors expect Trump's election will lead to higher spending on infrastructure and simpler regulations.
Some of the best-performing stocks in the post-election rally have been small caps. The Russell 2000, which dipped 0.4 percent on Wednesday, added 11 percent for November, its best monthly performance in five years.
Among gainers for the day, shares of CSX rose 2.9 percent following an upbeat forecast.
In the latest signs of economic strength that could further cement the case for a rate hike, U.S. private employers stepped up hiring in November and consumer spending increased last month, data showed.
Volume was well above average. About 9.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 7.9 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.53-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.82-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 65 new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 185 new highs and 47 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish)