It was another back-and-forth session for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI), though the bears eventually prevailed. Stocks erased early gains on signs of contracting U.S. manufacturing activity, and House Republicans' budget proposal failed to spark optimism about bipartisan deal-making. With the clock ticking, the looming fiscal cliff remained in focus, and the major indexes ended just off session lows.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) started off strong, but blazed a path lower as the session progressed. By the close, the blue-chip barometer shed nearly 60 points, or 0.5%, ending its two-day streak atop the 13,000 level. Just eight of the Dow's 30 components avoided the red, with Cisco Systems' (NASDAQ:CSCO) 0.6% gain leading the seven advancers, and Alcoa (NYSE:AA) finishing flat. Meanwhile, DuPont (NYSE:DD) paced the bearish majority with a 1.7% drop.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) also turned tail in the first hour of trading, surrendering 6.7 points, or 0.5%, by the close. Likewise, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) ended near a session low, giving up 8 points, or 0.3%, but maintaining its perch atop the 3,000 level.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX), on the other hand, added 4.8% to end north of 16 for the first time since Nov. 16.
A Trader's Take
"The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) sub-50 manufacturing number came out at 10:00 AM, and that sparked the selling," said Sapp. "Before that the market was up about 0.4%, but we eventually reversed course to finish 0.5% lower. However, even though the market is weak, there are pockets of strength -- you can still pick stocks. Technology was flat on the day, but a few names were up pretty significantly."
Economic and Earnings News
The ISM manufacturing index dropped to 49.5 in November, down from October's reading of 51.7. This move below 50 indicates a shift from expansion to contraction in U.S. factory activity. The magnitude of the decline caught economists off-guard, as the consensus estimate called for a milder pullback to 51.0.
Construction spending rose 1.4% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of $872.14 billion, reported the Commerce Department, besting the average Wall Street estimate for a gain of 0.5%. This marked the biggest monthly jump in construction spending in just over three years.
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