U.S. Stocks Drop; Investors On Fiscal-Cliff Watch

U.S. stocks declined Friday, with the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 halting their longest stretch of weekly gains since August, as investors fixated on the lack of a federal government budget deal and ignored upbeat economic reports in the U.S. and China.

Apple Inc.  fell 3.8% after UBS AG reduced its price estimate for shares of the consumer technology company, citing worries of slowing demand for the iPhone and iPad.

The market has mostly maintained a wait-and-see stance anticipating resolution to negotiations that had President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday speaking for nearly an hour at the White House, with both of their offices saying lines of communication remained open after their third such meeting.

“It’s certainly a source of frustration; today we got rather compelling news showing a bounce back in manufacturing post superstorm Sandy,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager for The Private Client Reserve, a division of U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average  shed 35.71 points, or 0.3%, to 13,135.01, leaving it off 0.2% for the week.

Off 0.3% from the week-ago finish, the S&P 500 index  declined 5.87 points, or 0.4%, to 1,413.58, with technology the leading laggard and natural-resources the best performing of its 10 major industry groups.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 ended a three-week winning stretch.

Off for a second straight week, the Nasdaq Composite lost 20.83 points, or 0.7%, to 2,971.33.

For every seven stocks that gained, eight fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where composite volume neared 3.2 billion.

Other reports Friday showing contained inflation in the U.S. and improved factory activity in China were also”equity-market friendly, yet here we are with the political theater that is taking place in Washington,” Wiegand said.

Yet the market has displayed remarkably little distress over “the absence of a comprehensive fiscal policy [which] is confounding investors and certainly businesses,” said Wiegand, who also noted “a decided absence of volatility,” a scenario he chalked up to cliff fatigue and investor disengagement seen in the mild trading volumes.

“I lean to the side that there will be a deal,” said Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates in Hinsdale, Ill.

The market had virtually no reaction to Friday data from the Labor Department, which reported the cost of living fell last month. The 0.3% drop slightly exceeded the 0.2% decline economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast.

With inflation not viewed as an imminent concern, the Federal Reserve this week widened its asset purchases in the central bank’s ongoing effort to reduce the jobless rate and bolster economic growth.

“I would tend to think those numbers are fairly benign, or positive in fact, in keeping the Fed on track for stimulus, or keeping policies in place for being more accommodative,” said Fitzpatrick.

Another report, this one from the Federal Reserve, had U.S. industrial production climbing 1.1% in November as manufacturing picked up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Best Buy Co. Inc.  shares declined 15% after the electronics retailer said it had prolonged the time frame for co-founder Richard Schulze to make a buyout offer until after the holiday season.

Adobe Systems Inc. shares  rose 5.7% after the software company reported sales and profit exceeding Wall Street’s forecasts.


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