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U.S. Stocks End Tough Week on Slightly Positive Note

11/09/2012 | 04:54pm US/Eastern

--Blue chips end day flat, S&P edges higher

--Investors turn attention to outlook for "fiscal cliff" negotiations

--Technology shares lead S&P 500 higher.

 
   By Alexandra Scaggs 
 

NEW YORK--Blue-chip stocks ended up flat after a seesaw trading day but lower for the week, as investors hit the brakes on the selloff that followed the presidential election and turned their attention to the outlook for fiscal negotiations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 4.07 points higher, less than 0.1%, to 12815.39, but posted its biggest weekly loss since the week ending Oct. 12. Technology shares led the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index higher, as it rose 2.34 points, or 0.2%, to 1379.85. The tech-oriented Nasdaq Composite gained 9.29 points, or 0.3%, to 2904.87, but still marked its fifth-straight weekly loss.

Before Friday, the Dow had lost 434 points, or 3.3%, over its previous two sessions, the biggest two-day decline in a year. Investors have been fretting about the looming "fiscal cliff" and its mix of tax increases and spending cuts if a budget deal isn't reached by year-end.

"The U.S. has an election every four years, but the market has an election every day," said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo's funds unit, which manages $203 billion in assets.

In his first speech from Washington since his re-election, Mr. Obama said Friday that he would bring in business, civic and labor leaders on budget negotiations, but added he wouldn't accept any plan that isn't balanced between tax increases and spending cuts, and stuck to his position of higher taxes for those with higher incomes.

Blue-chip stocks pared their gains during the speech, after having advanced as much as 75 points earlier.

"It looked like some bipartisanship is degrading to posturing and brinksmanship," said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of multiasset investments for ING Investment Management, which oversees about $170 billion. "We need to have a compromise. Anything that makes traders think politicians are digging their heels in will lead to selling."

Separately, positive readings on consumer opinion and wholesale inventories indicated that the state of the U.S. economy could be better than investors had feared. The preliminary Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index rose more than expected, while wholesale inventories in September increased from the prior month, at the fastest pace this year. Also, import prices rose in October, exceeding expectations.

European markets closed slightly lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.1%. The Greek Parliament meets Sunday for a vote on its budget, a day before a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers. It still isn't clear that Greece will be able to receive the next round of bailout aid. The Athens General Index added 0.9% and fell less than 0.1% on the week.

The French central bank said the country's economy is expected to contract 0.1% in the fourth quarter, heightening worries about a recession. France's CAC-40 index rose 0.5% but slumped 2% on the week.

In Germany, declines in banking shares hit the DAX index, which dropped 0.6%, pushing it down 2.7% for the week. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index fell 0.1%, declining 1.7% on the week.

Asian markets fell as worries about the U.S. and Greece offset encouraging data out of China. China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.1% for its fifth consecutive loss, and down 2.3% for the week, despite data showing that industrial output and retail sales for October rose more than expected. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.9%, also for a fifth session in a row, and declined 3.2% on the week.

Crude-oil prices gained 1.2%, to settle at $86.07 a barrel, while gold advanced 0.3%, to settle at $1,730.30 a troy ounce. The dollar rose against the euro but lost ground against the yen. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.613% as prices rose.

In corporate news, Walt Disney fell 6% after the blue-chip media and entertainment company reported late Thursday that fiscal fourth-quarter revenue missed analyst estimates, amid weakness in its interactive and studio entertainment business. Earnings for the quarter matched expectations.

Groupon tumbled 30% after the online-coupon service said late Thursday that it broke even on a per-share basis in the third quarter, missing expectations of a slight profit, and reported revenue that fell short of forecasts.

Zipcar jumped 16% after the car-sharing company reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and revenue, boosted by strong membership growth.

Kayak climbed 28% after the online-travel company agreed Thursday to be acquired by Priceline.com for $1.8 billion in cash and stock. Priceline.com slipped.

J.C. Penney declined 4.8% after the department-store chain reported a wider-than-expected fiscal third-quarter loss amid declines in total and same-store sales.

Lions Gate Entertainment rose 14% after the filmmaker reported fiscal second-quarter earnings that were above expectations, citing a boost to results from the home entertainment release of "The Hunger Games."

Array BioPharma retreated 14% after the company, which develops cancer-treatment drugs, announced plans to offer shares of its common stock for sale to the public.

Write to Alexandra Scaggs at alexandra.scaggs@dowjones.com

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