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Stocks Recover to End Mixed; Techs Drag

Thursday, 24 May 2012 | 4:52 PM ET

Stocks bounced off their lows to finish mixed in another choppy session Thursday amid ongoing speculation over whether Greece will exit the euro zone.

Stocks cut their losses in the final hour of trading following a report that Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said more EU states are in favor of Eurobonds.

"They’re telling us what we want to hear and it does cause a kneejerk reaction in the market," said Todd Schoenberger, managing principal at The BlackBay Group. "But this [euro zone crisis] is like a cancer—you can't just throw something at it and expect it to be fixed."

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 33.60 points, or 0.27 percent, to end at 12,529.75, led by H-P .

Caterpillar and United Tech led the Dow laggards. The blue-chip index has yet to see a two-day win streak this month.

The S&P 500 squeezed out a small gain of 1.82 points, or 0.14 percent, to finish at 1,320.68. The Nasdaq fell 10.74 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 2,839.38.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished below 22.

Among the key S&P sectors, techs led the laggards, while consumer staples ended higher.

“The long weekend is likely to be dominated by headlines in Europe,” said Schoenberger. “And remember—Europe has no holiday on Monday.”

European shares closed higherin choppy trading, rebounding from the previous session's steep declines, despite several regional reports that indicated a slowdown in economic activity.

EU leaders reiterated that Greece should stay in the euro zone, but didn't agree on any specific plans on how to solve the debt crisis.

“The market’s going to look to the Greek election and European summit in June—it seems like we’re going to be moved by different headlines for the rest of the month until then,” said Todd Salamone, director of research, Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and French President Francois Hollande agreed to consider all measures to boost European economic growth, including eurobonds, according to a report. But Germany remained opposed to the idea.

Meanwhile, some traders speculated that European Central Banks may be making plans to backstop the euro zoneshould the crisis worsen.

What Is On the Fed's Mind?
Markets are parsing every word out of Europe for signs the central banks might be ready to aid the markets. CNBC's Steve Liesman discusses the details of his interview with New York Federal Reserve president William Dudley.

“A Greek exit is priced in if we get action between now and the Greek election time by the ECB and IMF to do something to ring-fence the contagion and [bank] deposit flight that’s going to happen in the southern European banks," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets.

Facebook gained for a second day, but still traded far below its IPO price of $38 a share. Meanwhile, demand to borrow Facebook's sharesfor shorting has increased, with nearly 8 percent of the stock out on loan, according to Data Explorers.

After the close Wednesday, Knight Capital announced it suffered a pre-tax loss of $30 million to $30 million due to problems during Facebook's debut and demanded compensation from the Nasdaq . And Fidelity Investments said it is dealing with "thousands" of customers with order problems.

Adding to woes, Facebook said it may be open to changing its listing from the Nasdaq to rival NYSE , following the botched trading debut, according to sources. Meanwhile, sources told CNBC that Nasdaq executives are making an aggressive, behind-the-scenes push to stem the damage.

Among earnings, Hewlett-Packard closed higher after the Dow component beat on earnings and announced plans to lay off 27,000 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce. Its third-quarter outlook fell short of expectations but its full-year topped the consensus. In addition, at least three brokerages raise their price target on the firm.

NetApp plunged after the computer storage and data management company's guidance disappointed and the CEO warned of uncertainty in Europe. At least eight brokerages cut their price target on the firm.

Costco rose after the warehouse club operator posted better-than-expected earnings.

Tiffany slumped after the upscale jewelry retailer lowered its guidance, hurt by slowing global economic growth. At least three brokerages cut their price target on the company.

On the economic front, weekly jobless claims edged down a mere 2,000to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, according to the Labor Department. The four-week moving average for new claims dropped 5,500 to 370,000.

Meanwhile, durable goods orders rose less than expectedin April, gaining just 0.2 percent, according to the Commerce Department. And U.S. manufacturing growth slowed in May to hit a three-month low, according to a new industry survey from Markit.

Treasury prices held their lossesafter the government auctioned $29 billion in 7-year notes at a high yield of 1.203 percent and bid-to-cover of 2.80.

—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up This Week:

FRIDAY: Consumer sentiment, USDA food prices outlook

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