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Wall Street ends lower on sour Apple, "cliff" uncertainty

12/14/2012 | 07:32pm US/Eastern
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Stocks fell on Friday as another slide in Apple took a toll and investors unloaded some shares because of the uncertainty surrounding the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

For the Nasdaq, this marked the second losing week in a row. All three major U.S. stock indexes ended the week slightly lower.

Apple's (>> Apple Inc.) stock slid 3.8 percent to $509.79 - its lowest close since February 17 - after UBS cut its price target on the stock to $700 from $780. The stock of the most valuable U.S. company has been hit hard in the last three months. On Friday, Apple's stock fell after a tepid reception for the iPhone 5 in China.

The S&P Information Technology Index <.GSPT> lost 1 percent as Apple fell and Jabil Circuit Inc (>> Jabil Circuit, Inc.) shed 5.5 percent to $17.51 after UBS cut its price target.

The possibility of a fiscal cliff deal not taking place until early 2013 is rising. The back-and-forth negotiations over the fiscal cliff in Washington have kept markets on hold in what would already be a quiet period for stocks.

"We're faced with uncertainty ... and that's going to continue now into January. It basically puts everybody on hold and (you) just have the markets kind of thrash around," said Larry Peruzzi, senior equity trader at Cabrera Capital Markets Inc in Boston.

President Barack Obama and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner held a "frank" meeting on Thursday at the White House to discuss how to avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in early in 2013.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 35.71 points, or 0.27 percent, to 13,135.01 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 5.87 points, or 0.41 percent, to 1,413.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> lost 20.83 points, or 0.70 percent, to close at 2,971.33.

For the week, the Dow slipped 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 fell 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.2 percent.

Among other Nasdaq decliners, shares of chipmaker Qualcomm (>> QUALCOMM, Inc.) slid 4.7 percent to $59.83. A semiconductor index <.SOX> dropped 0.7 percent.

American Express Co (>> American Express Company) shares fell 1.9 percent to $56.65 and ranked as the heaviest weight on the Dow.

Investors are concerned that going over the cliff could tip the economy back into recession. While a deal is expected to ultimately be reached, a drawn-out debate - like the one over 2011's debt ceiling - can erode confidence.

Best Buy Co Inc (>> Best Buy Co., Inc.) slid 14.7 percent to $12.05 after the electronics retailer agreed to extend the deadline for the company's founder to make a bid. Shares jumped as much as 19 percent on Thursday after initial reports of a bid this week from founder Richard Schulze.

Among the day's economic data, consumer prices fell in November for the first time in six months, indicating U.S. inflation pressures were muted. A separate report showed manufacturing grew at its swiftest pace in eight months in December.

Data out of China was encouraging, as Chinese manufacturing grew at its fastest pace in 14 months in December. The news was deemed as helpful for U.S. materials companies, including U.S. Steel (>> United States Steel Corporation), which rose 6.8 percent to $23.85. An S&P material sector index <.GSPM> rose 0.9 percent.

Volume was roughly 5.8 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the year-to-date average daily closing volume of 6.52 billion.

Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of about 8 to 7. On the Nasdaq, decliners barely held an edge over advancers, with 1,241 stocks falling and 1,196 shares rising.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

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