"Fiscal cliff" standoff keeps Wall Street subdued
By Leah Schnurr | November 13, 2012 9:00 AM EST
Stocks were little changed in a lightly traded session on Monday, with investors limiting bets ahead of what could be a drawn-out battle over the "fiscal cliff."
Volume was light, with the U.S. bond market and government offices closed for the Veterans Day holiday. Trading was also affected by problems on the NYSE Euronext
Major averages vacillated between modest gains and losses throughout the session.
Worry about the fiscal cliff - a series of budget cuts and tax hikes that will start to go into effect in the new year - has investors cautious because of the potential for harm to U.S. economic growth.
Barclays cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,325 from 1,395, saying "there is little basis to believe a grand compromise is in the offing."
Though most consider it unlikely that some deal will not be reached, analysts fear going over the cliff could push the economy back into recession. There are also concerns that a protracted debate could hurt business and investment sentiment.
"The concern is there may be an impasse every bit as bad as what we had in August 2011," Brian Gendreau, market strategist with Cetera Financial Group in Gainesville, Florida, said, referring to the last-minute agreement policymakers reached on raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
Last year's political logjam bruised consumer attitudes and led to a downgrade of U.S. debt.
Still, some recent comments from politicians suggest a compromise might be more likely this time, Gendreau said.
NYSE first alerted traders it was having problems with one of its cash equity matching engines at 9:38 a.m. and said it would not publish quotes on a total of 216 stocks, including CVS Caremark Corp
Nasdaq OMX Group
The S&P index hovered around its 200-day moving average after last week closing below the level for the first time in five months. An extended run under it could signal further losses ahead.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 0.23 point to 12,815.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 0.15 point, or 0.01 percent, to 1,380.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was off 0.62 point, or 0.02 percent, to 2,904.25.
The S&P 500 is still up about 10 percent for 2012, though recent months have eroded those gains. The Nasdaq has fallen for five straight weeks.
Volume was roughly 4.62 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, well below the year-to-date average daily closing volume of 6.52 billion.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE 1,539 to 1,406 on the New York Stock Exchange. On the Nasdaq, decliners outpaced advancers by 1,304 to 1,121.
Merger activity bolstered the price of specific stocks. Precision Castparts Corp
Shares of Titanium surged 42.6 percent to $16.50, while Jefferies climbed 14 percent to $16.27. Precision rose 4.7 percent to $179.46. In contrast, Leucadia fell 3 percent to $21.14.
The S&P 500 dropped more than 2 percent last week, the worst week for the benchmark index since June. The drop was partly propelled by concerns about whether there will be a timely solution to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Also in the biotech sector, Celgene Corp
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