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December Is No Fun, Stocks Drop Again as Microsoft Declines

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks dropped for a fifth consecutive session on Thursday as labor market improvement and better economic growth raised the possibility of the Federal Reserve tapering in December.

  • The S&P 500 fell 0.43% to 1,785.03 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 0.43% to 15,821.51. The Nasdaq dipped 0.12% to 4,033.16.
  • Joe Bell, senior equity analyst with Schaeffer's Investment Research said: "The S&P 500 was up for the eight consecutive week last week, so it isn't a surprise to see the market take a bit of a breather this week. There will be a heavy dose of jobs reports toward the end of the week, which will get a ton of focus as investors continue to look for clues of when tapering will begin. The momentum has been strong, but many of the indices continue to struggle with round number areas they first approached last week and short-term consolidation before the next up leg makes sense here." 
  • Weekly initial jobless claims fell 23,000 to a better than expected 298,000 in the week of November 30 according to the Labor Department. Economists were looking for a rise to 325,000. The second estimate on third-quarter GDP registered at 3.6%, up from the 2.8% advanced estimate. October factory orders data from the Census Bureau could show a dip of 1% after gaining 1.7% the previous month. 
  • In stock news, Microsoft (MSFT) dropped 2.4% after a Ford Motor director indicated chief executive Alan Mulally would not lead the computer company. Apple (AAPL) rose 0.53% as China Mobile appeared closer to offering its 759 million subscribers iPhones.
  • S&P 500 Winner and Loser: Discount retailer Dollar General (DG) was the biggest percentage gainer in the S&P 500 as shares jumped 6.1% percent after boosting its full-year earnings forecast. Game developer Electronic Arts (EA) was the worst performer in the S&P as shares fell 6%. Puma Biotechnology (PBYI) leapt 67.7% after saying its breast-cancer drug would likely progress to final clinical trials needed before regulatory approval. 
  • The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo slid from this week's almost six-year closing high, finishing down 1.5% to 15,177.49 as investors keep an eye on potential Fed action. Nevertheless, the benchmark has risen about 46% year to date and is on track for its strongest annual performance since 1972 thanks to the country's aggressive stimulus. 
  • The FTSE 100 slipped 0.18% and the DAX in Germany was down 0.61% amid an announcement from European Central Bank Head Mario Draghi after the ECB and Bank of England left their benchmark interest rates at record lows. There are growing expectations that Draghi will be under pressure to loosen up monetary policy further as euro-area inflation continues to cool. While the ECB has cut the annual inflation forecast for 2014 to 1.1% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%, Draghi has not signalled that the central bank is in a rush to take additional policy action

-- Written by Jane Searle and Joe Deaux in New York

@itsjanesearle

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