Stocks Tumble 2% for Week, Spooked by 'Cliff' Talks
Stocks took another beating Friday, falling for the fifth-consecutive session, as skepticism grew on Wall Street that lawmakers in Washington could work out a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" by year end.
Stocks added to sharp losses in the final hour of trading following a report that President Barack Obama is not making a new budget offer during the fiscal cliff summit at the White House and plans to hold firm on a tax break only for families making up to $250,000 a year.
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The S&P 500 slumped 15.67 points, or 1.11 percent, to end at 1,402.43. The Nasdaq declined 25.60 points, or 0.86 percent, to finish at 2,960.31. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, spiked to close above 22 for the first time since June.
For the week, the Dow tumbled 1.92 percent, the S&P 500 fell 1.94 percent, and the Nasdaq dropped 2.01 percent. Most Dow components ended in the red for the week, dragged by Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, while Bank of America squeezed out a small gain.
All key S&P sectors finished in negative territory for the week, led by energy.
"Traders are so cautious and investors are also worried," said Stephen Guilfoyle of Meridian Equity Partners.
President Barack Obama met with a bi-partisan group of congressional leaders at the White House, just days before the deadline to reach a deal or see the a series of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes come into force. If a deal is not possible, Obama and the leaders would leave the resolution to the next Congress to address in January.
Earlier, stocks came off their lows as investors latched onto a glimmer of hope amid reports of progress toward a potential deal. According to sources, negotiations revolved around permitting taxes to rise to Clinton-era levels on incomes above $400,000, the level in Obama's last offer to Republican House Speaker John Boehner before their negotiations fell apart earlier this month.
Hewlett-Packard confirmed that the Justice Department is looking into its allegations that Autonomy engaged in accounting fraud prior to its acquisition by HP last year.
Apple fell after a Chinese court fined the iPhone maker $160,000 for hosting third-party applications on its App Store that were selling pirated electronic books, Xinhua news agency said. Apple shares have declined nearly 25 percent in the last three months. The stock hit an all-time high of $705 in mid-September.
Barnes & Noble jumped after British publisher Pearson said it will buy a 5 percent stake in the bookstore chain's digital Nook and college bookstore businesses for $89.5 million. Separately, Barnes & Noble said it expects holiday sales to be below forecasts and that its Nook business will not meet prior full-year 2013 projections.
On the economic front, pending home sales rose to their highest level in more than 2-1/2 years, climbing 1.7 percent in November, according to the National Association of Realtors.
And the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index of Midwest business activity rose to 51.6 in December from 50.4 in November, edging past expectations for 51.0.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
On Tap Next Week:
MONDAY: Dallas Fed mfg survey, farm prices, 'fiscal cliff' deadline
TUESDAY: New Year's Day -- Markets Closed
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, PMI manufacturing index, ISM mfg index, construction spending
THURSDAY: Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, jobless claims, FOMC minutes, Fed balance sheet/money supply, chain store sales, auto sales; Earnings from Family Dollar
FRIDAY: Employment situation, factory orders, ISM non-mfg index, oil inventories, Fed's Yellen speaks; Earnings from Mosaic
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