U.S. stocks fluctuate on manufacturing data amid retail reports

Holiday Sales

“I would have expected Thanksgiving weekend sales to be stronger, given how well financial markets have done,” Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman Wealth Management, which oversees $22 billion, said by phone. “We’re skeptical that the price movement in stocks this year has been supported by fundamentals, so we’re lightening up.”

An S&P index of retailers lost 0.6% for the third- worst performance among 24 industries. Urban Outfitters paced declines, losing 3.8% to $37.54 after being downgraded to neutral from buy at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc.

Online spending rose 15% to a record $1.2 billion, according to ComScore Inc., as more customers opted to shop from their couches rather than battling long lines at stores. Online retailers can expect 131 million shoppers for today’s Cyber Monday promotions, up from 129 million last year, the National Retail Federation said.

EBay climbed 1.9% to $51.47. The company was the second-most visited online retailer on Black Friday, behind Amazon.com Inc., ComScore said.

Energy Stocks

Four of 10 main industries in the S&P 500 advanced, with health-care shares rising 0.3% for the biggest gain. Forest Laboratories Inc. jumped 8.9% to $55.89 for the largest advance in the index.

Dow Chemical Co. added 2.9 to $40.20. The largest U.S. chemical maker by sales plans to separate chlorine-related assets including its epoxy business as the company focuses on higher-margin activities.

Freddie Mac rose 6.6% to $2.57. Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay the government-sponsored mortgage insurer $404 million to resolve mortgage-repurchase claims.

The deal covers about 716,000 loans created by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009, and sold to Freddie Mac, the firms said today in separate statements.

Building Sale

Graham Holdings Co., which is changing its name from Washington Post Co., lost 6.5% to $630. The education and media company agreed to sell its headquarters building in downtown Washington to Carr Properties for about $159 million.

3M dropped 3.5% to $128.90 for the biggest loss in the Dow. Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock to the equivalent of sell and Oppenheimer & Co. chief market technician Carter Worth said the stock is overpriced.

Travelers Cos. slid 1.8% to $89.13. The second- largest U.S. commercial insurer was cut to neutral from buy at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Groupon Inc., the online discount-coupon company, slid 4.3% to $8.66. Goldman Sachs cut its rating on the stock to neutral from buy.

Newmont lost 3.8% to $23.89. Gold touched to the lowest level since July, as signs of the strengthening U.S. economy fueled speculation the Fed will curb its monetary stimulus.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P 500 options known as the VIX, rose 2% to 13.97 today. The measure has gained five straight sessions, rallying 13%, for the longest winning streak this year.


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