Stocks End Mixed, but Sharply Lower for Week

Stocks finished mixed in another thin, choppy session Friday, as investors were reluctant to commit to the market ahead of the weekend and amid ongoing nervousness over the debt talks in Europe and Washington.

All three major averages closed at their worst levels in almost two months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 25.50 points, or 0.22 percent, to finish at 11,796.23, led by Hewlett-Packard and Boeing .

Despite the week's losses, the blue-chip index is still in positive territory for the year.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.46 points, or 0.04 percent to end at 1,215.67. The Nasdaq fell 15.49 points, or 0.60 percent, to close at 2,572.50.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished at 32.

For the week, the Dow declined of 2.94 percent, the S&P tumbled 3.81 percent, while the Nasdaq dropped 3.03 percent. Hewlett-Packard was the best performer on the blue-chip index for the week, while Alcoa led the laggards.

All 10 S&P sectors posted a loss for the week, led by financials.

“These volumes are so light that it makes the markets all the more volatile,” said Doreen Mogavero, president and CEO of Mogavero, Lee & Company. “Equity markets in the last few days have not looked strong and the selloff due to the European bond market is an indicator of how sensitive we still are to headlines.”

ECB is considering a move to lend money to the IMF that would be used to finance bailouts to heavily debt-ridden euro zone countries, according to a report. Meanwhile, other reports say Germany and the ECB remain opposed to the plan, but talks could begin with no viable alternatives.

Italy's new government announced far-reaching reforms in response to the European debt crisis that pushed borrowing costs for France and Spain sharply higher, and brought tens of thousands of Greeks onto the streets of Athens. There were also protests in Spain, Italy and the U.S.

European shares extended their losses after British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to narrow differences over the introduction of a financial transaction tax in Europe.

Earlier, new ECB President Mario Draghi pressed euro zone governments to kick-start the region's rescue funds, resisting pressure on the bank to do more to tackle the debt crisis.

“A big question mark remains the U.S. banks’ exposure to Europe and the ‘Super Committee’ does not look too promising either,” added Mogavero.

Traders also have the U.S. "Super Committee" negotiations on their minds ahead of a Nov. 23 deadline to reach $1.2 trillion in deficit trimming.

Among earnings, Heinz quarterly profit topped expectations, thanks to price increases, but shares of the Ketchup maker slipped after the firm did not raise its full-year forecast.

Ann gained after the women's clothing retailer posted earnings that beat estimates, helped by strong demand for its LOFT brand.

Marvell Technology gained even after the chipmaker posted a decline in revenue and warned that the flooding in Thailand may hurt demand for hard-drive controllers.

Meanwhile, Salesforce slumped after the web-based software maker reported a quarterly loss as its market and sales costs increased sharply in addition to a tepid outlook. In addition, at least two brokerages cut their price targets on the firm.

Clearwire sank more than 30 percent after the wireless Internet service provider's CEO weighed whether the firm would make its debt payment due Dec. 1, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shares were halted four times.

Elsewhere, the trustee liquidating MF Global Holdings broker-dealer unit won court permission to distribute $520 million of cash, providing relief to customers whose accounts have been frozen since it went bankrupt.

Economic activity in the U.S. climbed 0.9 percent in October, a sixth straight gain, according to the Conference Board. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the index to rise 0.6 percent.

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Coming Up Next Week:

MONDAY: Chicago Fed nat'l activity index, existing home sales, 2-yr note auction, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Kindle Touch ships; Earnings from Hewlett-Packard
TUESDAY: GDP, corporate profits, 5-yr note auction
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, durable goods orders, personal income & outlays, jobless claims, consumer sentiment, oil inventories, 7-yr note auction, FOMC minutes, Super Cmte. must vote on detailed recommendations; Earnings from Deere
THURSDAY: Thanksgiving Day: All US markets closed
FRIDAY: Black Friday, NYSE early close, Fed balance sheet, money supply, USDA food prices outlook

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