Stocks Close Mixed Amid Fiscal-Cliff Jitters

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages traded mixed Friday after a better-than-expected November jobs report was tempered by worries about the progress on the U.S. budget talks in Washington and dimmer consumer confidence.

House Speaker John Boehner indicated Friday that there's been no signs of a breakthrough yet on the so-called fiscal-cliff negotiations.

The Nasdaq slumped as the technology sector got hit the hardest in the broad market. Apple ( AAPL) shares slid 2.6%. Earlier in the morning, the stock had been extending a mini rebound from the prior session after steep declines this week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 81 points, or 0.62%, at 13,155. The blue-chip index completed a third consecutive week of gains, up 1% on the week, after it had started the session up more than 7.5% in 2012.

Breadth was slightly positive, with winners edging losers 24 to six. The top blue-chip advancers were JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Caterpillar ( CAT), IBM ( IBM) and Bank of America ( BAC).

McDonald's ( MCD) shares also moved higher, up 0.44%, after being upgraded to "buy" at Janney Capital.

The biggest laggards were Cisco ( CSCO), Microsoft ( MSFT) and Alcoa ( AA).

United Technologies ( UTX) shrugged off earlier-session declines and climbed 0.15%, after the company said it reached a mutual agreement with TransDigm ( TDG) to terminate the previously announced sale of Goodrich's pump and engine control systems business to TransDigm. TransDigm shares lost 3.8%.

The S&P 500 added 4 points, or 0.29%, at 1,418. It inched up 0.13% for the week. The Nasdaq lost 11 points, or 0.38%, to 2,978. The tech-heavy index dropped 1.07% for the week.

The biggest sector decliners, along with technology, were health care and conglomerates. The bigger gainers included the basic-materials, consumer non-cyclical, financial and energy sectors.

Volumes were tepid at 3.10 billion shares on the Big Board and 1.61 million shares on the Nasdaq. Advancers were outnumbering decliners by a ratio of 1.2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange, but losers were defeating winners by a 1.1-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

"We're seeing this bracketing of the market at roughly the low 1,400s level, and that bracketing is really being driven by the fiscal cliff ... the fiscal follies of Washington ineptness," said Michael Strauss, chief economist and chief investment strategist at Commonfund. "The economic news is good enough that it's tempering what otherwise would be a decline that would unfold because of the ineptness in Washington ... and we're seeing bracketing as opposed to producing the types of declines we saw last summer."

Before the market open, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said nonfarm payrolls added 146,000 jobs in November, up from a downwardly revised 138,000 in October. Economists had predicted that 93,000 jobs would be added in November.

Nonfarm private payrolls increased by 147,000, down from an upwardly revised 189,000. Expectations were for an increase of 95,000.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.7% from 7.9%; economists forecast the rate to remain at 7.9%.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.2%, while the average workweek stayed at 34.4 hours, both as expected.

"The perception in the market place is we need 150,000 or 100,000 jobs a month to keep the unemployment rate steady. We probably only need 50,000 to 75,000," Strauss said. "Why? Because the working population is only expanding at about 0.5%. The baby boom population is now beginning to retire, and is aging out of the workforce."

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index on Friday showed a big drop for December, with a reading of 74.5, the weakest number since August and down from 82.7 the prior month. Economists, on average, were expecting a decline to 82.4.

Economists expect data Friday to show that consumer credit increased by $10 billion in October, down from an expansion of $11.4 billion in September. The report is due at 3 p.m. EST.

Stocks rose Thursday as shares of technology behemoth Apple rebounded and investors watched the U.S. "fiscal cliff" debates with a bit more optimism.

"Apple is a fast-growing technology company that dominates the consumer products it participates in, but it is priced as a slow-growing industrial company," said Troy Logan, managing director and senior economist at Warren Financial Service. "We see this in the price-to-earnings ratio. Apple is a cash-generating machine that -- even as their stock becomes more volatile -- by the end of 2016 will generate shareholders about half of its current stock price in cash. Apple is currently trading at about $550 per share. In the next four years it will generate approximately $250 per share in cash."

The European markets turned higher Friday after the jobs report. The FTSE 100 in London closed up 0.22% and the DAX in Germany settled lower by 0.22%. Earlier, the benchmark indices were trading in the red as the German Bundesbank lowered its 2013 economic growth outlook for the country as the eurozone sovereign debt crisis persists, and as the Italian 10-year government bond ticked up in the face of political uncertainties.

Ahead of the nonfarm payrolls release, Japan's Nikkei average closed down 0.19% on Friday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished off by 0.26%.

In Japan, tsunami fears were sparked by a 7.3-magnitude quake that struck off the country's eastern coast.

Gold for February delivery rose $3.70 to settle at $1,705.50 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts lost 33 cents to close at $85.93 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 12/32 to raise the yield to 1.630%. The dollar was up 0.21%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Netflix ( NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings and his company received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission for a social network post. Shares lost 0.22%.

The controversial chief of the DVD-rental and streaming-media company received a Wells Notice for a Facebook ( FB) post that claims Hastings violated the fair-disclosure clause.

Palo Alto Networks ( PANW) said Thursday it swung to a fiscal first-quarter loss of $3.5 million, or 5 cents a share. Adjusted profit in the quarter was 4 cents a share, topping analysts' estimates by a penny as revenue jumped 50% to $85.9 million. Shares were effectively flat at $51.31.

Smith & Wesson ( SWHC) swung to a profit of $21.1 million, or 31 cents a share, in the fiscal second quarter. The board of the gun maker approved $20 million in stock buybacks. Shares slipped 8.6%.

Amarin ( AMRN) announced Thursday plans to raise $100 million in debt financing and the intention to hire 250 to 300 sales representatives, in a go-it-alone launch strategy for lipid-lowering prescription fish-oil pill Vascepa.

The announcement disappointed investors who were hoping for a marketing partnership. Shares plunged 18.9%.

McGraw-Hill ( MHP) shares popped 4.2% after the company announced a special dividend of $2.50 a share on its common stock, payable on Dec. 27.

-- 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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