U.S. stocks erase gains as finance chiefs meet on Greece aid

U.S. stocks erased gains, failing to rebound after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s biggest weekly retreat since June, as investors awaited budget talks in Washington and European finance chiefs met to discuss Greek aid.

Jefferies Group Inc. jumped 14 percent after Leucadia National Corp. said it will buy the investment bank. Titanium Metals Corp. surged 43 percent after Precision Castparts Corp. agreed to buy the maker of titanium products. An S&P index of homebuilders slid 4.1 percent as D.R. Horton Inc.’s chief executive officer cautioned that weak employment growth could hurt sales of new homes. Apple Inc. slumped 0.8 percent after dropping for seven straight weeks.

The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,380 at 4 p.m. in New York, after gaining as much as 0.4 percent earlier in the trading session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.23 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 12,815.16.

“The last month has been very weak for the market,” Robert Stimpson, a money manager at Akron, Ohio-based Oak Associates Ltd., which oversees about $850 million, said in a phone interview. “The political concerns in Europe and the U.S. add volatility on a daily basis.”

Fewer than 292 million shares of New York Stock Exchange- listed companies changed hands on the NYSE, the least in Bloomberg data going back to 2003, as the Big Board canceled trading and closing auctions in 216 securities after an outage in a computer that matches orders and processes transactions.

Fiscal Cliff

U.S. stocks had their biggest weekly decline in five months as President Barack Obama’s re-election set up a budget showdown with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The S&P 500 fell 2.4 percent over five days last week, and has lost 5.3 percent since Oct. 18. The index is up 9.7 percent for the year through today.

If Congress doesn’t act by the end of the year, $607 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect starting in January. Obama invited the top Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to the White House this week to begin talks on a plan to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

“What people don’t like in markets is uncertainty,” said Gilles Sitbon, who helps oversee $1.9 billion at Sycomore Asset Management in Paris. “People are waiting for one thing that could make the market go down. People are ready to pull the trigger. And if nothing happens, then you can get a grind higher. It’s confidence building.”

‘Large Risks’

Euro-area finance ministers met in Brussels today. While the ministers will probably not approve 31.5 billion euros ($40 billion) of financial aid to Greece, they will agree to prevent the country from defaulting on 5 billion euros of bills that mature on Nov. 16, a European official said on Nov. 9.

The so-called troika that oversees euro-area Greece’s bailouts said it sees “very large risks” to the Greek program, according to a draft report obtained by Bloomberg News. The troika comprises the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Phone and health-care stocks rose the most among 10 groups in the S&P 500 today, while utilities and technology companies had the biggest declines. United Technologies Corp. increased 1.5 percent to $76.95. AT&T Inc. advanced 1 percent to $33.87.

Jefferies gained 14 percent to $16.27. Leucadia, the largest shareholder of Jefferies with a 29 percent stake, agreed to buy the the portion of the company it doesn’t already own for about $2.8 billion. Investors will receive 0.81 Leucadia share for each Jefferies share they own, the companies said today in a statement, valuing the entire company at $3.59 billion. New York-based Leucadia fell 3 percent to $21.14.

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