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Stocks Close Mixed, S&P Ends Below 1200

Stocks closed mixed Tuesday, with the Nasdaq ending lower and the S&P failing to end above a key technical level despite earlier optimism over a meeting of EU finance ministers and a better-than-expected consumer confidence report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 32.62 points, or 0.28 percent, to close at 11555.63, led by Coca-Cola and Home Depot . BofA was the biggest laggard on the blue-chip index.

The S&P 500 squeezed out a gain of 2.65 points, or 0.22 percent, to finish at 1,195.20—below the key technical level of 1,200. The Nasdaq slipped 11.83 points, or 0.47 percent, to end at 2,515.51.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed below 31.

Among key S&P sectors, energy climbed, while techs lagged.

After the close, S&P cut its credit ratings on 37 large banks around the world including U.S. financial giants BofA , Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo . All large banks were trading lower in after-hours trading.

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Late Monday, Fitch revised its outlook on the U.S. credit rating to negative, citing the failure of a special congressional committee to reach an deficit-reduction agreement. Fitch gave the United States until 2013 to come up with a plan to tackle its ballooning budget deficit.

In Europe, euro zone ministers approved the next installment of Greece's bailout loan of $10.7 billion in an effort to prevent the debt chaos from spreading to other nations.

Meanwhile Italy paid more than 7 percent to sell three and 10-year paper in an auction that saw decent demand for the shorter-maturity debt.

And a French newspaper reported Standard & Poor’s could cut its France’s AAA rating outlook within days, while Moody’s said it could downgrade the subordinated debt of 87 banks across 15 countries on fears that governments will not be able to bail them out.

American Airlines and its parent company AMR filed for bankruptcy protection after the company wasn't able to come up with an agreement with pilots to pare its labor costs. The airline also said it was suffering from soaring fuel prices. Shares tanked more than 80 percent.

Meanwhile, rivals United Continental , Delta Airlines and JetBlue rallied.

A federal judge threw out Citigroup’s proposed $285 million settlement over the sale of toxic mortgage debt in a decision which throws into question the SEC's policies toward settlements with publicly traded companies.

Among earnings, Tiffany slumped after the luxury retailer gave a holiday quarter profit outlook that missed expectations.

Corning fell sharply to lead the S&P laggards after the LCD glass supplier slashed its profit outlook.

Research In Motion jumped after the BlackBerry maker said it will launch a mobile software in the first quarter, which will allow corporate IT staff to set and monitor rules for passwords on a range of devices, including Apple's iPad and iPhone, and smartphones using Google's Android.

On the economic front, price of U.S. single-family home slipped 0.6 percent in September, according to the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence bounced back from a 2-1/2 year lowin November to 56.0 according to the Conference Board.

Facebook is preparing for an IPO next yearand is explporing to raise $10 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And Zynga is scheduled to go on a road show next week to promote its IPO. The social gaming site is rumored to go public in 2012 and the IPO could mark the biggest Internet debut ahead of Facebook.

—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: twitter.com/JeeYeonParkCNBC

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, productivity & costs, Chicago PMI, pending home sales index, oil inventories, Beige Book, farm prices, AT&T/TMobile hearing, USDA's agricultural trade outlook; Earnings from American Eagle, Aeropostale
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, ISM mfg index, construction spending, chain store sales, auto sales; Earnings from Barnes & Noble, Kroger, Lululemon, H&R Block
FRIDAY: Employment situation, Fed's Plosser speaks; Earnings from Big Lots

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