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Dow, S&P 500 Stumble; Nasdaq Gains

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages finished mixed Monday as investors tried to decipher the latest round of rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C. about the fiscal cliff.

Stocks plumbed their lows of the session early in the day as Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Minority leader in the Senate, called for President Barack Obama to break an impasse on budget talks.

But Wall Street bounced late in the day following a statement of confidence from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff will eventually be struck.

At final check, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 42 points, or 0.33%, to close at 12,967. The blue-chip index, which was coming off its best weekly performance since June, began the session up nearly 6% in 2012.

Losers finished well ahead of winners within the Dow, 22 to 8. The biggest percentage decliners were American Express (AXP), AT&T (T), Coca-Cola (KO), Microsoft (MSFT), and Verizon (VZ), all rising more than 1%.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group (UNH) were also lower Monday after the health insurer gave 2013 earnings guidance that's below the current consensus analysts' expectations.

Meantime, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) continued to bounce, closing 2.4% higher. Shares of the no. 1 PC maker scraped multi-year lows last week after its quarterly report.

The S&P 500 lost close to 3 points, or 0.20%, to settle at 1406, while the Nasdaq ticked up nearly 10 points, or 0.33%, to finish at 2977. It was the sixth straight positive session for the tech-heavy index, which is up more than 14% in 2012.

The weakest sectors in the broad market were energy, financials, health care, and services. Consumer cyclicals, technology, transportation and utilities finished in the green. Apple (AAPL - Get Report) was a bright spot as shares of iPhone maker jumped more than 3% after Citigroup initiated coverage of the stock with a buy rating and a $675 price target.

Decliners finished ahead of advancers by a ratio of 1.3-to-1 on the Big Board but winners edged losers by a 1.2-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. Volume totaled 2.94 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.64 billion on the Nasdaq.

The FTSE 100 in London closed down 0.56% on Monday, while the DAX in Germany settled lower at 0.23%.

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