Stocks Finish Tough Week With Slight Gains

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. averages edged up Friday as a strong read on American consumer confidence provided a slight respite from worries about the fiscal cliff and the eurozone.

Stocks pared early gains, however after President Barack Obama addressed the U.S. fiscal cliff at the White House's East Room on Friday afternoon. Congress is expected to begin tackling the issue next week. Obama reiterated his belief that higher taxes for wealthy Americans will be necessary to address the deficit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added a little more than 4 points, or 0.03%, to close at 12,815. The blue-chip index lost 2.12% for the week, its worst performance in more than five months. Year-to-date, it's still up 4.89%.

Breadth within the Dow was positive with winners ahead of losers, 18 to 12. The leading blue chips were Boeing ( BA), Caterpillar ( CAT), and AT&T ( T).

The biggest percentage decliners among the blue chips were Walt Disney ( DIS), UnitedHealth Group ( UNH), and Hewlett Packard ( HPQ).

Shares of Walt Disney fell 6% after the media and entertainment giant posted an in-line quarterly profit after Thursday's closing bell as net income rose 14% year-over-year but revenue came up short of the consensus estimate.

The S&P 500 rose more than 2 points, or 0.17%, to finish at 1380. The index closed down 2.43% for the week, also its worst performance in five months, but remains up 9.72% year-to-date.

The Nasdaq settled up more than 9 points, or 0.32%, at 2905. The technology-heavy index lost 2.59% this week and is now holding 11.50% gain for 2012.

Breadth was roughly even on both exchanges. Volume totaled 3.63 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.80 billion on the Nasdaq.

The strongest sectors in the broad market, which was mostly positive, were capital goods, health care, and technology. Transportation, basic materials and utilities were in the red.

"Concerns over the fiscal cliff are heating up -- a move away from riskier assets and the U.S. dollar as a safe haven -- which means the coming few weeks could be a long slog before the year ends," said Christopher Vecchio, an analyst at DailyFX.

"If bickering between Democrats and Republicans ensues, expect coal this Christmas instead of a Santa Claus rally," Vecchio continued. "We'll get our first insights into the debt negotiations today when the reinvigorated President, fresh off of Tuesday's win, will address the nation on the fiscal cliff shortly after the lunch hour."

The Congressional Budget Office repeated its projections Thursday that if significant tax increases and spending cuts are allowed to go into effect in January they will probably cause the economy to fall back into a recession next year.

Concerns about Greece's stability have returned as well after reports that the European Union won't decide on whether to provide the next round of bailout funds for the country until sometime next week, even though the Greek parliament did manage to pass a new, tough austerity package by a narrow margin this week.

Greece's parliamentary vote on the country's budget is expected to take place on Sunday, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers meeting.

Upbeat data on U.S. consumer confidence extended some cheer to the markets Friday. The read on the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for November came in at 84.9, the highest level since July 2007. It was predicted by economists to rise to 83 from 82.6.

Still, Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak commented that "the rise in consumer confidence while a welcome reading is unlikely to soften the negative tone to trading from fears surrounding the fiscal cliff thrust to the fore after the national election."

In other economic news, the Census Bureau said that wholesale inventories rose 1.1% in September after increasing by an upwardly-revised 0.8% the previous month. Economists were expecting a rise of 0.4%.

The Labor Department said before the market open Friday that import prices rose 0.5% in October, compared with the flat figure expected by economists, as petroleum import costs rose 1.3%.

Export prices were flat, versus the forecast 0.2% increase.

Overseas markets were weak. The FTSE 100 in London closed down by 0.11%, while the DAX in Germany fell 0.58%. Japan's Nikkei average settled down 0.9% on Friday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed behind by 0.85% even after data showing better-than-expected increases in Chinese industrial production and retail sales.

Gold for December delivery tacked on $4.90 to settle at $1,730.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the December crude oil contract was up 98 cents to close at $86.07.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged, leaving the yield stuck at 1.618%. The dollar was up 0.28%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, ( PCLN) pulled off a surprise deal late Thursday to acquire Kayak Software ( KYAK) for $1.8 billion in cash and stock, valuing the shares at $40 each. Priceline shares slipped 0.32% while Kayak's stock rose nearly 28%.

J.C. Penney ( JCP) shares lost nearly 5% after the retailer posted a steeper-than-forecast third-quarter loss driven by deteriorating sales as customers remained very unreceptive to the company's new pricing strategy that is skewed toward everyday low pricing rather than big sales.

Shares of Lions Gate Entertainment ( LGF) jumped more than 14% after the motion picture production and distribution company posted much stronger-than-expected fiscal second-quarter results, boosted by the home video release of "The Hunger Games."

Zipcar ( ZIP) shares soared nearly 16% after the car sharing network company reported stronger-than-anticipated third-quarter results as its membership rose 18% from a year ago.

Groupon ( GRPN), the online deals company, reported a surprise loss for its third quarter with revenue of $568.6 million missing Wall Street's consensus view of $590.1 million. Groupon shares plunged close to 30%.

Allscripts Healthcare Solutions ( MDRX) said Thursday it's exploring strategic alternatives, perhaps selling itself to a third party. Shares of the provider of electronic health record services lost less than 1%.

Energizer ( ENR) shares surged 7.6% after the consumer products company posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings and full-year profit, as earnings at its personal care unit increased, and it announced a planned 10% cut to its work force.

Array Biopharma ( ARRY) shares plunged nearly 14% after company announced plans for a common stock offering.

-- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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