(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a modestly higher note as investors weighed an upbeat consumer sentiment data and digested remarks by President Barack Obama on the looming "fiscal cliff".
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.17 percent to end at 1,379.85. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.03 percent to finish at 12,815.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.32 percent to close at 2,904.87.
Obama addressed fiscal cliff of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could weigh on economic growth. Obama called for higher taxes on wealthy Americans to address the deficit and invited Congressional leaders to the White House next week to hold talks on averting the cliff.
"If we're serious about reducing the deficit we have to combine spending cuts with revenue, and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes," Obama said in his first public speech since winning re-election.
Meanwhile, a government data showed that import prices increased 0.5 percent in October after a 1.1 percent gain in September, better than economists expectations of a rise 0.1 percent. Export prices were unchanged after increasing 0.8 percent in September.
The Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for November rose to 84.9 from 82.6 in last month, while economists expected a reading of 83.3. The data showed consumer sentiment jumped to a five-year high.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: DIS, JCP, GRPN, KYAK, CRAY, ZIP, IGT, LGF, ARRY
In corporate news, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) shed 5.96 percent after the entertainment giant's quarterly revenue trailed market expectations.
J.C. Penney Co Inc. (NYSE: JCP) retreated 4.84 percent after the department store chain posted a quarterly loss as sales plunged and margins contracted sharply.
Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) slumped 29.59 percent after the daily deal website posted weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue amid continued challenges in Europe. Total cost of revenue more than doubled in the third quarter.
Kayak Software Corp. (NASDAQ: KYAK) soared 27.80 percent after the online travel site agreed to be acquired by Priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ: PCLN) for $1.8 billion in cash and stock.
Cray Inc. (NASDAQ: CRAY) added 10.91 percent after the supercomputers maker guided full year to be solidly profitable and said it agreed to buy privately-held advanced scalable supercomputing services developer Appro International Inc. for about $25 million in cash.
Zipcar Inc. (NASDAQ: ZIP) jumped 15.89 percent after the operator of a car sharing network posted a jump in third-quarter earnings also raised its 2012 revenue outlook.
International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT) added 5.22 percent after the maker of slot-machines reported a 65 percent jump in quarterly profit amid strong revenue growth at its North American business.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) surged 14.25 percent after the entertainment company swung to a profit in the second quarter as revenue rose.
Array Biopharma Inc. (NASDAQ: ARRY) retreated 13.79 percent after the company priced an underwritten public offering of 18 million shares at $3.65 each at a discount to the stock's previous closing price.
European markets ended on a mixed note amid uncertainty over whether Greece will be able to receive the next round of bailout package. Germany's DAX dropped 0.58 percent to close at 7,163.50. France's CAC40 rose 0.47 percent to finish at 3,423.57. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 0.11 percent to end at 5,769.68.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index edged 0.12 percent lower to finish at 2,069.07. Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 0.90 percent to end at 8,757.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.85 percent to end at 21,384.38. India's BSE Sensex closed at 18,683.68, down 0.86 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures rose 1.25 percent to $86.15 per barrel, while natural gas futures shed 2.88 percent to $3.50 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures added 0.36 percent to $1,732.2 per ounce and silver futures gained 1.16 percent to $32.62 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro dropped 0.30 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2711. The British pound dipped 0.55 percent against the greenback to 1.5897, and the dollar was unchanged against the Japanese yen at 79.4700.