December 7, 2012

Eroding confidence weighs on stocks

Any euphoria from a better-than-expected report on the state of the U.S. job market Friday quickly faded as investors shifted focus to a report showing lackluster consumer confidence.

Stocks were mixed Friday afternoon, giving up some early morning gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average remained up 0.4%, helped by shares of JPMorgan Chase, while the S&P 500 was nearly flat. The Nasdaq dropped by 0.6%, pushed down by a 3% slide in Apple.

Investors learned ahead of the opening bell that the U.S. economy added more jobs than expected in November, and the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low.

But the latest consumer sentiment reading from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan served as a stark reminder that consumers still aren't on board with the economic recovery. The index unexpectedly fell to 74.5 in December, coming in way below forecasts and down from 82.7 in November.

On top of that, worries about the fiscal cliff and ongoing back-and-forth wrangling in Washington continue to keep investors on edge. If lawmakers fail to strike a deal before the end of the year to avert the $500 billion of scheduled tax increases and spending cuts, they risk pushing the U.S. economy into recession.

On the corporate front, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for posting information about the company on his Facebook page that he hadn't disclosed to the SEC. Shares dipped almost 1%.

Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding. dropped more than 6% even though the gun maker reported strong quarterly earnings results and boosted its full-year outlook.

Shares of publisher McGraw-Hill rose nearly 4% after the company announced that it would pay a one-time special dividend before year-end.

Western Gas Equity Partners rose nearly 30% in its IPO Friday.

European markets closed in mixed territory after Germany's Bundesbank cut its growth forecasts and warned there was a risk of Europe's biggest economy dipping into recession in early 2013.

Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite performed best, adding 1.6%.

The dollar was firmer against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil prices for January delivery rose slightly to $86.44 a barrel. Gold prices for February delivery edged up to $1,702.20.

The price on the 10-year Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 1.63% from 1.58% late Thursday.

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