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 ended 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
European stocks closed the week 1.7% lower with banking shares under pressure Friday, as upbeat Chinese economic data failed to spur investor optimism amid worries over the euro-zone debt crisis.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index gave up 0.1% Friday to close at 270.27. Shares of Novo Nordisk AS jumped 7.3% after a U.S. panel advising the Food and Drug Administration voted to approve two insulin products and recommended a study to assess the possible risk of the drugs causing heart attacks.
However, shares of Credit Agricole SA slumped 5.9%, as the French bank reported a wider-than-expected loss for the third quarter. A monthly report from the Bank of France said economic activity in the euro-zone's No. 2 economy is expected to decline by 0.1% in the fourth quarter, which would place France in recession.
Meanwhile, developments in Greece's effort to secure its next tranche of bailout money garnered attention ahead of a Monday meeting of euro-zone finance ministers.
The ministers may delay a decision to pay out the next bailout installment until late November, news reports said. Greece's parliament is scheduled to vote Sunday on its 2013 budget.
The Athens General Index added 0.9% to 801.99. The index fell less than 0.1% on the week. Shares of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA rose 1.6%. The firm said it would cut 4,500 jobs at its loss-making Iberia airline.
Shares of Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC gained 1.9%. The power-systems firm said that its current trading is consistent with management's earlier forecast.
The FTSE 100 index fell 0.1% to 5,769.68, with shares of HSBC Holdings PLC down 0.3%. On the week the index dropped 1.7%. In Germany, declines in banking shares hit the DAX 30 index, which dropped 0.6% to 7,163.50 and lost 2.7% on the week.
Shares of Commerzbank AG gave up 6.3% while Deutsche Bank AG shed 2.3%. Among French stocks, shares in Vallourec SA gained 3.7%, after UBS lifted the steel-tube maker to neutral from sell. The CAC 40 index rose 0.5% to close at 3,423.57, but slumped 2% on the week.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Asian markets fell again Friday, as worries about the U.S. fiscal cliff continued to weigh on markets, though Chinese inflation data gave support to some markets.
The Hang Seng Index finished its worst week since July. The main Asian data points came from China, against the backdrop of the second day of the Party Congress, where the country is expected to unveil its next set of leaders.
China's consumer price index rose 1.7% on-year in October, below expectations for a 1.9% on-year rise. The producer price index fell 2.8% on-year in October compared with expectations for a 2.7% decline.
The inflation data, which was interpreted as a sign that China has room to undertake easing, did help limit the losses in some markets. The Shanghai Composite, which fell for the fifth consecutive session, only lost 0.1% to 2069.07 on Friday.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.9% at 21384.38. Chow Tai Fook Jewellery was among the major movers in Hong Kong, sinking 5.6% after the jeweler warned that it is likely to report an on-year drop in first-half profit due to gold-hedging losses and a softening retail market.
The yen's overnight advance continued to pressure Japanese stocks, with the Nikkei down 0.9% at 8757.60. Exporters were at the forefront of the declines: Hitachi Construction Machinery was 2.9% lower, Nikon Corp was down 1.3% and Toyota Motor lost 0.5%. South Korea's Kospi was 0.5% lower to 1904.41. Rising gold prices supported gold miners. Zijin Mining Group was up 1.3% in Hong Kong.
Base metals closed mostly in negative territory on the London Metal Exchange Friday, as the earlier cheer sparked by encouraging Chinese data faded and attention turned once more to economic challenges faced in other regions.
At the close, LME three-month copper was trading at $7,565 a metric ton, down 0.9% on the day. Lead fared the worst, closing the session 2.7% lower at $2,148.50/ton.
Oil futures spent much of Friday morning veering between positive and negative territory, as the market remained edgy over continued problems in the euro zone and concerns that U.S. policy makers wouldn't address the so-called "fiscal cliff," but oil picked up steam as the day progressed, reaching as high as $86.77 a barrel at midday.
Gasoline futures rose amid reports of tight supplies in the Northeast and in anticipation that the region's recovery from Hurricane Sandy would boost demand for the fuel. Crude futures for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled at $86.07 a barrel, up 98 cents, or 1.2%.
Gasoline futures for December delivery settled at $2.699 a gallon, up 9.19 cents, or 3.5%. Gold posted the largest weekly gain since January as traders bet that continuity in U.S. policy following the re-election of President Barack Obama and the arrival of a peak period for Indian buying spelled higher demand for the precious metal.
The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, rose $4.90, or 0.3%, to settle at $1,730.90 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday. During the week, gold futures rose 3.3%, the most since the week ended Jan. 20. COMPILED FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD.
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