December 14, 2017

Stocks Turn Higher

Wall Street turned positive Monday after the worst weekly decline of the year, even as investors face the prospect of a lackluster corporate earnings season.

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was 0.3 percent higher in afternoon trading, while the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq composite index added 0.3 percent.

Earnings forecasts have been scaled back heading into first-quarter reports. Earnings from companies in the S.P. 500 are expected to have risen just 1.6 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data, down from a 4.3 percent forecast in January.

A weaker-than-expected jobs report on Friday prompted concern that the American economy is in a slow patch.

Despite those headwinds, the loose monetary policy from central banks around the world continues to attract investors to equities, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

“It’s all about easy money, and it’s lifting equities around the globe at this time,” Mr. Cardillo said.

The Bank of Japan started its bond purchases after it announced last week that it would inject about $1.4 trillion into the economy in less than two years.

In the United States, the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program has been a significant catalyst of the recent rally that has sent major indexes to record levels.

Still, markets in the United States could see a technical correction of about 6 to 8 percent in the latter part of the month as the focus turns to corporate results, Mr. Cardillo said.

Alcoa’s earnings will be the first from a Dow component after Monday’s closing bell. JPMorgan Chase and Bed Bath Beyond are among the major companies set to announce results later in the week.

Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, will give a speech after markets close on Monday. Investors have been watching for any insight into the Fed’s thinking on how long the central bank will keep its asset purchase program in place as it tries to bolster the economic recovery.

General Electric said it will buy oil field services provider Lufkin Industries for about $3.3 billion, sending Lufkin shares up 38 percent. G.E. slipped 0.2 percent.

Investors will be keeping an eye on the latest developments out of the euro zone after a constitutional court in Portugal overturned key austerity measures in the government’s latest budget. Portugal’s prime minister said the government would cut spending to meet targets agreed with its lenders. European stock markets ended largely unchanged.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Stocks Little Changed

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose above its previous closing high, set in October 2007, in morning trading on Thursday.

The benchmark index was recently trading over 1,565.15 points, up 0.2 percent, despite a report of rising claims for unemployment benefits.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average, which was up 0.3 percent Thursday in afternoon trading, already passed its 2007 milestone earlier this month, but the S.P. 500 is widely considered to be a broader-based reflection of the American stock market. The Nasdaq composite index of largely technology stocks added 0.1 percent Thursday.

The benchmark index has repeatedly come close to reaching its own record level in recent days, but has pulled back each time as investors grappled with concerns about the banking crisis in Cyprus. European stock markets rose on Thursday after Cypriot banks opened for the first time in two weeks with less turmoil than expected.

The new high caps a four-year run for the S.P. 500 that began in 2009 after the near collapse of the American financial system. The index rose to a high on Oct. 9, 2007, but then fell 57 percent to hit an ominous intraday low of 666.67 on March 6, 2009, and a closing low of 676.53 three days later.

The surge in the S.P. 500 this year still puts the index only slightly above where it was back in the heady days of 2000, when technology stocks were leading the market higher. Factoring in inflation, the S.P. 500 is still well below the highs reached in 2000 and 2007. The index is also still below the intraday record level of 1,576.09 hit on Oct. 11, 2007.

The current rally has been fed by bond-buying programs begun by the Federal Reserve, which helped nourish a recovery in corporate profits.

The gains have not generally been enjoyed by Americans without stock portfolios, leading to widespread skepticism about the sustainability of the market’s rise. But more recently there have been signs that the economic recovery may be broadening out into the rest of the economy.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy grew at a 0.4 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was faster than the 0.1 percent that the government previously estimated. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week, more than predicted, but longer-term numbers have pointed to a recovery in the labor market. The overall unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in four years in February.

The market gains on Thursday were relatively broad based, with 333 stocks in the S.P. 500 rising.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Europe’s Debt Problems Stir Wall Street Worry

Renewed worries about Europe’s debt crisis weighed on the stock market on Wednesday and held the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index back from reaching a nominal high.

Investors are watching to see if Cyprus can shore up its banking system. They are also concerned about Italy, where political parties are struggling to form a new government.

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index slipped 0.92 point to 1,562.85, less than three points short of its high set in October 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 33.49 points to close at 14,526.16, a loss of 0.2 percent. It had dropped as much as 120 points in morning trading, then spent the rest of the day climbing back.

The Nasdaq composite index edged up 4.04 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,256.52.

Bad news from Europe and good news from the United States have tossed the stock market around over the last week. Stocks slumped on Monday as Cyprus scrambled to rescue its banks. They rallied on Tuesday on stronger home prices and an increase in factory orders.

“There are still plenty of worries about the banking system” in Europe, said J. J. Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. “But the U.S. really is on a nice little roll.”

Cyprus is preparing to reopen its banks on Thursday after a nearly two-week shutdown. An international bailout requires people with large bank balances to help pay for the rescue.

In Italy, a leading political party failed in its attempt to form a new government. The stalemate has raised fears that the country will be unable to manage its deep debts. Italy has one of the largest economies of the 17 countries that use the euro.

Worries also hit Europe’s bond markets especially hard. Borrowing rates for Italy and Spain shot higher, a sign of weaker confidence in their financial health. Rates for Germany and France, two of Europe’s more stable countries, sank as traders shifted money into their bonds.

Four of the 10 industry groups in the S. P. 500 index edged higher. Utilities and health care, which investors tend to buy when they want to play it safe, made the biggest gains.

Health care is the best-performing industry in the S. P. this year, up 14 percent. That compares with a 10 percent rise for the S. P. 500.

Kim Forrest, a senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital, said it appeared that many investors were treating certain stocks as if they were bonds.

“There’s a recognition that bonds are overpriced, so people are moving into health care and utilities that pay a nice dividend,” she said. “Those are pretty boring investments, and by that I mean their prices don’t move a lot.”

News about Italy also helped drive traders into the safety of United States government bonds, pushing benchmark yields to their lowest level this month. The price of the 10-year Treasury note rose 19/32, to 101 13/32, while its yield dropped to 1.85 percent, from 1.91 percent late Tuesday.

Among the stocks on the move, Cliffs Natural Resources, an iron ore mining company, plunged 14 percent, the biggest loss in the S. P. 500. Analysts warned that falling iron ore prices would most likely sink the company’s stock. Cliffs fell $2.97 to $18.46.

Science Applications International surged 5 percent after the security and communications technology provider reported a fourth-quarter profit that was better than analysts were expecting. The company also announced a special dividend of $1 a share, and its stock gained 50 cents, to $13.32.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dow Ekes Out 8th Consecutive Gain in Otherwise Flat Trading

The stock market meandered on Tuesday, ending the day with little change, although the Dow Jones industrial average crept up to another nominal high.

The Dow, which has risen for eight consecutive trading sessions, added 2.77 points to close at 14,450.06 after wavering between small gains and losses for most of the day.

The broader Standard Poor’s 500-stock index ended down 3.74 points, or 0.2 percent, at 1,552.48. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 10.55 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,242.32.

Stocks have surged this year as investors became encouraged by a recovery in the housing market and a pickup in hiring. Strong corporate earnings and continuing economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve are also supporting demand for stocks.

The Dow has gained 10.3 percent in 2013. Last week it surpassed its previous nominal high of 14,164.53. The S. P. 500 has risen 8.9 percent this year and is less than one percentage point from its nominal high close of 1,565.15, set in October 2007.

David Bianco, chief United States equity strategist at Deutsche Bank, said the S. P. 500 index would probably maintain its momentum in the coming weeks and surpass its nominal high. Strong first-quarter corporate earnings reports could also push the market higher.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the market has a typical 5 percent pullback in the summer,” Mr. Bianco said. “But I think we go higher before that happens.”

The last significant downturn for stocks began before the presidential election in November, when the Dow fell 8 percent from Oct. 5 to Nov. 15 on investors’ concerns that a divided government in Washington might not be able to reach a budget deal to avoid sweeping tax increases and deep spending cuts.

Stocks have not had a correction, typically defined as a decline of 10 to 20 percent, since November 2011.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, was among those saying investors should expect a pause in the market’s advance.

“Nothing goes up forever,” Mr. Cardillo said. “We will be headed for a correction somewhere along the line.”

Merck was the biggest gainer in the Dow, advancing $1.38, or 3.2 percent, to $45.04 after it said that a data safety monitoring board had recommended that a study of its cholesterol drug Vytorin should continue.

Among the stocks on the move, Yum Brands rose 89 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $68.73 after the company, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, announced a smaller-than-expected drop in its sales in China for January and February after a food scare over its chicken suppliers.

Diamond Foods slumped $1.71, or 9.7 percent, to $15.89 after the company reported disappointing second-quarter sales and offered an estimate for the rest of the fiscal year that also fell short of Wall Street estimates.

VeriFone Systems gained $1.22, or 6 percent, to $21.68 after the company, a leading maker of terminals for electronic payments, said late Monday that its chief executive would step down after recent stumbles cut the company’s stock price nearly in half.

Costco Wholesale rose $1.31, or 1.3 percent, to $103.75 after reporting that its fiscal second-quarter net income climbed 39 percent. Costco pulled in more money from membership fees, its sales improved and it recorded a large tax benefit. Even without the tax benefit, the results were better than analysts had expected.

Cabela’s, an outdoor retailer, gained $6.75, or 12.5 percent, to $60.65 after it said that it expected its first-quarter profit to exceed market expectations.

In the bond market, interest rates declined for the first time in seven trading sessions. The price of the Treasury’s 10-year note rose 12/32, to 99 27/32, while its yield dropped to 2.02 percent from 2.06 percent late on Monday.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Wall Street Stages Partial Rebound

After beginning the day with a partial rebound from Monday’s steep drop, stocks on Wall Street gave up their gains Tuesday in the course of Congressional testimony by Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman.

In late morning trading, the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was essentially flat, while the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.4 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was down 0.1 percent.

In his prepared testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Bernanke defended the Fed’s bond-buying program and said the economy was growing at a “moderate if somewhat uneven pace.” Senators were questioning him on the prospects for a global currency war and the potential economic effects of the latest budget impasse in Congress.

The major indexes fell more than 1 percent on Monday, with the S.P. 500 recording its biggest daily drop since November. The falloff came as investors fretted that if Italy does not undertake reforms, the euro zone could once again be destabilized. The Euro Stoxx 50 index was off more than 3 percent in late trading Tuesday.

Groups in Italy opposed to economic reforms posted a strong showing in the recent election, resulting in a political deadlock with a comedian’s protest party leading the poll and no group securing a clear majority in Parliament.

“We’ve gone to an environment of political stability to instability, and until we get some type of clarity over who is in charge, which could take days, the market will have renewed concerns,” said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

Still, market participants speculated that a coalition government would eventually emerge in Italy and ease worries about a new euro zone crisis.

The early market gains suggested the recent trend of investors buying on dips would continue. Last week, concerns that the Federal Reserve might roll back its stimulus efforts earlier than expected prompted a sharp two-day decline, though equities recovered most of the lost ground by the end of the week.

“Investors are taking advantage of the drop, and once some kind of coalition government is formed, most of our concerns will be put to rest,” Mr. Hogan said.

Home Depot reported adjusted earnings and sales that beat expectations, sending shares up more than 5 percent.

Macy’s rose 2.6 percent after stating it expected full-year earnings to be above analysts’ forecasts because of strong sales in the holiday period.

For the benchmark S.P. 500, 1,500 points will be watched as a key benchmark after the index closed below it on Monday for the first time since Feb. 4, with selling accelerating after falling below it. An inability to break back above it could portend further losses.

Financial shares may be among the most volatile, as that sector is closely tied to the pace of global economic growth. Morgan Stanley was one of the top percentage losers on the S.P. on Monday, dropping more than 6 percent on concerns about the company’s exposure to European debt. It initially rose 0.8 percent on Tuesday, but was down 0.5 percent by late morning.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 26, 2013

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the Senate panel before which Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, was testifying Tuesday. It was the Banking Committee, not the Finance Committee.

 

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Stocks Trade in Narrow Range

Stocks were mixed on Friday, lifted by a strong report on consumer sentiment but pulled down in late trading by what was said to be an internal report of weak Walmart sales at the start of February.

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index fell in late trading, with Wal-Mart Stores leading the way down after the report on February sales, but the index remained higher for the week and extended its streak of weekly gains to seven. The last such run was from December 2010 to January 2011.

Equities were little changed for much of the session, with investors finding few reasons to make big bets after an extended rally on Wall Street.

Interest rates were steady. The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note fell 2/32, to 99 31/32, and the yield rose to 2.01 percent from 2 percent late Thursday.

Wal-Mart Stores dropped 2.2 percent to $69.30 after Bloomberg News reported a weak start to February sales, citing internal company e-mails. The stock was the biggest decliner on the Dow Jones industrial average. The S. P. retail index fell 0.5 percent.

“When a retailer of this size comes out with this kind of lousy news, the whole market can fall off, especially on a Friday afternoon,” said Mike Shea, of Direct Access Partners in New York. “However, I’m not worried that this is indicative of any larger macro issue with retail.”

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 8.37 points, or 0.06 percent, at 13,981.76. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down 1.59 points, or 0.1 percent, at 1,519.79. The Nasdaq composite index was down 6.63 points, or 0.21 percent, at 3,192.03.

For the week, the Dow and Nasdaq fell 0.1 percent each, while the S. P. rose 0.1 percent.

“There’s no news that suggests the strong underpinning for stocks isn’t appropriate,” said Mark D. Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia. “We may have gotten ahead of ourselves, but there’s also an absence of bad news.”

Many investors are looking ahead to a debate in Washington over the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts put in place as part of a larger Congressional budget fight. The cuts are set to kick in on March 1 unless lawmakers agree to an alternative.

“This had been far enough out to not yet become an impediment for stocks, but it will start to move into the forefront,” Mr. Luschini said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said manufacturing in New York State expanded for the first time in seven months. A preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reading of consumer sentiment rose, beating expectations. But manufacturing fell in January.

Wall Street’s gains thus far in 2013 have been driven largely by strong corporate earnings. A surge in merger and acquisition activity, with more than $158 billion in deals announced so far in 2013, has given further support to the equity market as it points to healthy valuations and bets on the economic outlook.

Herbalife shares cut earlier gains to rise 1.2 percent on Friday, to $38.74. Late on Thursday, the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn disclosed that he owned 13 percent of Herbalife and was ready to put it in play.

MeadWestvaco, a packaging company, climbed 12.5 percent to $35.65, making it the biggest percentage gainer on the S. P. index, after the activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management said it had bought about 1.6 million shares of the company.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dow Closes Above 14,000 for First Time Since 2007

The Dow had been rising steadily for about a month. With auto sales strong and optimism about the jobs market high, the index was only 155 points away from its highest nominal close.

“There’s a newfound enthusiasm for the equity market,” said Jim Russell, regional investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

The Dow ended Friday 149.21 points higher, at 14,009.79. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose 15.06 to 1,513.17, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 36.97, to 3,179.10.

Auto sales helped. Toyota, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all reported double-digit gains for January. The government jobs report that was released Friday was mixed, but traders seemed to focus on the positive.

The Labor Department said 157,000 jobs were added in January, which was in line with expectations. Unemployment inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December, but many economists were encouraged because the government now says that hiring over the last year was higher than originally thought.

The jobs number is based on a survey of employers, and the unemployment rate is based on a separate survey of households, which is why they can diverge.

Market watchers were divided over what the potential for a new high really meant for the Dow. To some, it was a reason for optimism.

“The Dow touching 14,000 — it matters psychologically,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. “It attracts smaller investors.”

Those investors had been shying away from stocks. Since April 2011, investors have pulled more cash out of stock mutual funds than they have put in, according to the Investment Company Institute, a trade association. In the last three weeks, though, that trend has reversed, which could make January the first month in nearly two years when stock-focused funds had more money flowing in than flowing out.

To others, 14,000 was nothing but a number, and not even the best number on the board. Professional investors usually pay more heed to the S. P. 500.

Joe Gordon, managing partner at Gordon Asset Management in Durham, N.C., says he does not think the gains will last. The fact that small investors are piling back in, he said, is a sign that the market has attracted too much optimism and is headed for a fall.

After the Dow hit its high in 2007, it fell almost steadily for the next year and a half, losing more than half its value before starting to tick back up.

The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note fell 9/32, to 96 15/32, and the yield rose to 2.03 percent from 1.98 percent Thursday.

Before Friday, the Dow had closed above 14,000 just nine times. The first time was in July 2007; the rest were in October of that year.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/02/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

S.&P. 500 Hits a Five-Year High

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index set a five-year high on Thursday as stronger-than-expected exports from China spurred optimism about global growth prospects.

“Historically, January is a positive month for the market, and you’re seeing that play out,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at the RDM Financial Group in Westport, Conn.

Financial companies, up 1.4 percent, and energy stocks, with a gain of 1 percent, were the day’s top gaining sectors.

Analysts cited economic data from China as the day’s catalyst. A report showed the country’s export growth rebounded to a seven-month high in December, a strong finish to the year after seven straight quarters of slowdown.

“It is being interpreted positively that they’ve stopped the downturn,” Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at the Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia, said. “If they continue to produce good growth, that’s going to be supportive for our global manufacturers.”

Wall Street’s fear gauge, the Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index, or VIX, suggested markets were relatively calm. The index was down 2.3 percent at 13.49.

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose 11.10 points, or 0.76 percent, to 1,472.12 on Thursday, which was 6 percent below the all-time closing high of 1,565.15 it hit on Oct. 9, 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80.71 points, or 0.60 percent, to 13,471.22.

The Nasdaq composite index added 15.95 points, or 0.51 percent, to 3,121.76.

Financials benefited from events this week that helped clarify mortgage rules and banks’ potential exposure to the housing market. The consumer finance watchdog announced mortgage rules on Thursday that will force banks to use new criteria to determine whether a borrower can qualify for a home loan.

Earlier this week, several big mortgage lenders reached a deal with regulators to end a review of foreclosures mandated by the government.

Bank of America gained 3.06 percent, to $11.78, while Morgan Stanley was up 3.67 percent at $20.34, one day after sources said the bank planned to cut jobs.

Shares of the upscale jeweler Tiffany dropped 4.52 percent, to $60.40, after it said sales were flat during the holidays.

Herbalife stepped up its defense against the activist investor William A. Ackman, stressing it was a legitimate company with a mission to improve nutrition and help public health. The stock ended down 1.78 percent, to $39.24.

After the closing bell, American Express said it would cut about 5,400 jobs, and take about $600 million in after-tax charges in the fourth quarter.

Interest rates were higher. The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note fell 11/32, to 97 18/32, and the yield rose to 1.90 percent from 1.86 percent late Wednesday.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economic Reports Help Shares Gain Ground

Stocks rose on Thursday after investors recovered from a pessimistic report on federal budget talks and were cheered by reports on economic growth and unemployment claims.

Stock rose and fell in tandem with the tenor of remarks from Washington. The Dow was up as much as 77 points in morning trading, but it turned negative when House Speaker John Boehner reported little progress in budget talks. Stocks recovered slowly in afternoon trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished with a gain of 36.71 points, or 0.28 percent, at 13,021.82. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose 6.02 points, or 0.43 percent, to 1,415.95. The Nasdaq composite index gained 20.25 points, or 0.68 percent, to 3,012.03.

After meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Mr. Boehner told reporters that Democrats had yet to say which cuts to government benefit programs they would accept, suggesting that a final budget deal was not close. Republicans have said they are open to increasing taxes but only if that is met by significant cuts to spending.

Investors have been closely watching the talks between the White House and Congress over the spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to start on Jan. 1 unless a deal is reached to cut the budget deficit.

“It’s a headline-watching market with this fiscal cliff,” David Brown, the chief market strategist at the investment research firm Sabrient Systems, said, referring to the combined tax increases and spending cuts.

Mr. Brown said the continuing negotiations were likely to cause the stock market to take sudden turns in the weeks ahead. “But things seem to be moving in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t think either party wants to get pinned with hurting the market or the economy.”

Economists have forecast that tax increases and spending cuts will push the economy back into recession.

Stock in Guess, a clothing maker, gained 49 cents to close at $25.74 after it joined the ranks of companies pledging special dividends to shareholders before favorable tax rates on dividends expire at the end of the year.

Dividends, now taxed at 15 percent, will be treated like ordinary income next year unless Congress and the White House extend current tax breaks as part of a budget deal.

The Commerce Department raised its estimate for economic growth to an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the July-through-September period from the 2 percent rate estimated a month ago. The estimate was 1.3 percent rate in the three previous months.

The Labor Department also reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 393,000 last week, in line with economists’ expectations. It was the second consecutive drop after Hurricane Sandy drove applications higher this month.

Target, Gap and other retail stores posted poor sales numbers, driving their stocks lower. Kohl’s reported a decline in sales and fell 12 percent to lead decliners in the S. P. 500. Kroger, the supermarket chain, rose $1.19 to $26.25 after reporting stronger quarterly profits and raising its earnings outlook for the year.

Interest rates were lower on Thursday. The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note rose 4/32, to 100 2/32, and the yield slipped to 1.61 percent from 1.63 percent late on Wednesday.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Stocks Slip Awaiting Budget Movement

Wall Street stocks edged down on Friday, the final trading day of the month, amid a cautious mood as investors kept their focus firmly on budget talks in Washington.

The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index slipped 0.3 percent by midday, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq composite index fell 0.3 percent.

Trading has been choppy lately, as investors buy on sporadic dips in the market and react to mixed reports regarding progress in talks on averting the spending cuts and tax increases that will come into effect in the new year.

“Thus far, we have nothing,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist, at Miller Tabak Co. in New York, of results of the White House’s discussions with Congress.

Still, “it appears that the market remains comfortable John Boehner’s perspective that there is still a workable framework behind the negotiations,” he said.

House Speaker Boehner said Thursday that no substantive progress had been made in fiscal negotiations with the White House, and criticized Democrats for failing to get serious about including spending cuts in a final deal.

Among individual stocks, Facebook and Zynga revised terms of a partnership agreement between the companies; under the new pact, Zynga will have limited ability to promote its site on Facebook. Zynga shares were down 7.5 percent. Facebook shares were down 1.2 percent.

Whole Foods Market announced a special cash dividend of $2 per share. In expectation of higher dividend tax rates in 2013, companies have been shifting dividends or announcing special payouts to shareholders.

Japan’s Nikkei average hit a seven-month closing high on Friday as a weaker yen, driven by expectations the Bank of Japan will act more boldly under a likely new government following Dec. 16 elections, lifted the shares of exporters.

European shares ended mixed at 15-month highs as investors squared the books on the final trading day of the month, with eyes on American budget talks. The FTSE 100 index in London was up 0.1 percent.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/daily-stock-market-activity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss