After jumping higher out of the gate, U.S. stocks spent the rest of the session closer to breakeven. In early trading, the major market indexes gained ground in spite of a few banking-sector downgrades from Fitch Ratings, and seemingly shrugged off a lackluster outlook from Research In Motion (RIMM). However, a relatively disappointing Wall Street debut for Zynga (ZNGA) helped to deflate the bulls, as did a bigger-than-expected increase in core consumer prices. Furthermore, Fitch said France's AAA rating could be in jeopardy, and put its ratings on six other euro-zone nations -- including Spain and Italy -- on watch for downgrade. Against this backdrop, and thanks to reports of a recession-related warning from Standard & Poor's, the major market indexes gave back most -- if not all -- of their gains by the close.
After tagging an intraday high of 11,968.18 right out of the gate, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 11,866.39) spent the latter half of the session in the red, bottoming at 11,819.31 around midday. By the close, the blue-chip barometer ended 2.4 points, or 0.02%, south of breakeven, bringing its weekly deficit to 2.6%, and marking the Dow's second finish beneath its 10-week moving average since early October. Among the index's 30 components, IBM (IBM) paced the 10 decliners with a 2.1% drop, while Home Depot (HD) led the bullish majority with a gain of 2.5%.
In the same vein, the S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,219.66) traded as high as 1,231.04 before pulling back, paring its gain to 3.9 points, or 0.3%, by the bell. Finally, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,555.33) topped out at 2,585.42, but shaved its lead to 14.3 points, or 0.6%, by the time the dust settled. For the week, however, the SPX and COMP swallowed losses of 2.8% and 3.5%, respectively.
Turning to equities in focus, Darden Restaurants (DRI) said earnings were dragged down by lackluster sales at Olive Garden ... Put buyers are betting on an extended pullback for Lululemon Athletica (LULU) ... Accenture (ACN) offered up relatively weak fiscal-year guidance ... ISTA Pharmaceuticals (ISTA) rejected a buyout bid from Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) ... Pan American Silver (PAAS) emerged as a potential contrarian play in the silver sector ... Cablevision (CVC) fell to a two-year low in the wake of an executive departure ... and today's Quote of the Day comes from Marcus Ziemer of Orlando, who moonlights as Santa Claus for video-chat service Paltalk. However, he says, for him it's not so much a job as it is a lifestyle. In fact, he warns, it kind of has to be:
"If you become Santa to make money, you're in the wrong business."
But these weren't the only headlines hitting the Street today. Click on the links below for our blog coverage of:
And, in case you missed it, Jim Cunningham walked nervous shareholders through the ins and outs of protective puts. Click here watch the latest installment of Inside Options.
For today's activity in crude oil, gold futures, options, and more, turn to page 2.
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