NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks fluctuated on Friday caught between better-than-expected retail sales and worries that Europe's economic woes will continue to be a drag on global growth..
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1% and the S&P 500 dropped 0.06% while the Nasdaq added 0.09%. If the Dow and S&P 500 can finish higher on Friday, the indices will notch another record-setting high.
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In Washington, the U.S. House approved legislation to allow for construction of the enormous and controversial Keystone XL pipeline by a vote of 252 in favor versus 161 against. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill on Nov. 18. If it passes, legislation on the oil pipeline, slated to run from oil fields in Alberta, Canada through the plain states and as far south as the Texas Gulf Coast, would go to President Obama.
"This will create other economic activity," said U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican sponsor of the bill. "This will ripple through the economy." However, plunging crude oil prices could undercut the project's value. Since summer, West Texas Intermediate crude has dropped around 25% as supply outstrips demand. On Thursday, the commodity slipped under $75 a barrel, a four-year low.
Better-than-expected October retail sales positively portended the holiday shopping season. Spending excluding gasoline, autos and food services increased 0.5%, the biggest increase since August and above an expected 0.4% increase.
"We've been waiting for the consumer to come back into the marketplace," Hennessy Funds' Brian Peery said over the phone. "Now with gas prices dropping downward, you really start to see some discretionary income coming back to the middle-income and low-end consumer who now have the ability to spend a little bit coupled with an increase in jobs."