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Stocks Finish Mixed; HP Weighs on Dow

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages closed mixed Tuesday, paring losses that followed in the wake of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighing in on the fiscal cliff.

"Currently, uncertainties about the situation in Europe and especially about the prospects for federal fiscal policy seem to be weighing on the spending decisions of households and businesses as well as on financial conditions," Bernanke said in a speech before the Economic Club of New York. "Such uncertainties will only be increased by discord and delay."

The market was already weak ahead of the speech but stocks fell to session lows after Bernanke said he believes "[c]oming together to find fiscal solutions will not be easy, but the stakes are high" and reminded investors that the federal debt limit also needs to be raised early in 2013.

While housing market data was positive once again, downcast news revealed in Dow heavyweight Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) latest quarterly results was a big headwind for the broad market as well.

The no. 1 PC maker fell short of Wall Street's revenue expectations and recorded a massive $8.8 billion charge in relation to its now-disastrous $10.3 billion acquisition of U.K. software maker Autonomy. Shares of HP, which is alleging Autonomy misrepresented its financials, fell 12%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped more than 7 points, or 0.06%, to close at 12,789. The blue-chip index, which rallied more than 1% on Monday, is now up 4.67% in 2012.

Winners outpaced losers within the Dow, 17 to 13. Bank of America (BAC), American Express (AXP), and Disney (DIS) were all up more than 1%.

Aside from HP, the Dow's biggest decliners were Alcoa (AA), Chevron (CVX), and Intel (INTC - Get Report).

Intel shares fell 3.6% after the stock was cut to neutral from buy at UBS, which referenced uncertainties surrounding the chipmaker's CEO changes. The world's biggest semiconductor company surprised Wall Street Monday with the announcement that Paul Otellini is planning to retire as chief executive officer in May.

After Monday's close, JPMorgan named Marianne Lake as its next chief financial officer, succeeding Doug Braunstein, who is becoming the bank's vice chairman. Lake, currently the financial chief of the company's consumer and community banking business, is expected to transition into the CFO role during the first quarter of 2013.

The S&P 500 gained less than a point, or 0.07%, to settle at 1388, and the Nasdaq also rose less than a point, or 0.02%, to finish at 2902.

The weakest sectors in the broad market were technology, transportation and energy. Capital goods, financials, health care, services and consumer non-cyclicals closed in the green.

Advancers outpaced decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a 1.3-to-1 ratio, but losers slightly beat winners by a 1.1-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. Volume totaled 3.20 billion on the Big Board and 1.59 billion on the Nasdaq.
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