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Stocks End Flat Amid Budget Uncertainty; Yum! Brands (YUM) Tumbles

 November 30, 2012 04:15 PM

(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a flat note amid uncertainty over whether lawmakers in Washington will be able to reach a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff". 

The S&P 500 Index inched up 0.02 percent to end at 1,416.24. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.02 percent to finish at 13,025.04. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.06 percent to close at 3,010.24.

President Barack Obama has pushed for higher taxes on wealthy Americans to address the fiscal cliff of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could hit economic growth.

On Friday, Obama argued that Republicans in Congress should extend existing middle-class tax cuts and allow tax increases on high earners.

[Related -Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO): What Will Drive Future Revenue For Yahoo!?]

Speaker of the House John Boehner, meanwhile, said talks to avoid the cliff were at a "stalemate,". "Right now, we're almost nowhere," the Ohio Republican said.

On the data front, U.S. personal income increased slightly and personal spending unexpectedly fell 0.2 percent for October, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed. Economists expected a 0.2 percent increase in income and spending. In September, personal income rose 0.4 percent and personal spending gained 0.8 percent.

Another report showed that the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) expanded to 50.4 in November versus 49.9 last month, while expectations were for a reading of 50.3.

Hot Stocks Of The Day: YUM, ZNGA, GRPN, TLAB, VRSN, SVU

In corporate news, Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) retreated 9.92 percent after the quick service restaurant company forecast a 4 percent drop in China same-store sales for the fourth quarter.

[Related -Linkedin Corp (NYSE:LNKD): New Marketing Efforts Should Improve Ad Sales]

Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) fell 6.11 percent after the online social gaming company amended terms of agreement with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). Zynga will no longer be separately obligated to display Facebook ad units or implement Facebook credits on any such Zynga game pages, a regulatory filing showed. Facebook shares closed 2.49 percent higher.

Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) retreated 7.71 percent. The daily-deal site has no immediate plans to replace Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason, Bloomberg reported.

Tellabs Inc. (NASDAQ: TLAB) surged 20.68 percent after the networking-equipment company declared a special dividend of $1 a share. The company also appointed Daniel Kelly as its chief executive.

Verisign Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) slumped 13.24 percent. The company said the U.S. Department of Commerce approved the renewal of its 2012 .com registry agreement. Verisign said its current pricing of $7.85 per domain name registration will continue for the six-year term of the agreement. Verisign no longer has the right to four price increases of up to seven percent over the six-year term.

SUPERVALU INC. (NYSE: SVU) added 4.39 percent after grocery operator confirmed that its review of strategic alternatives is proceeding.

Global Markets

European markets ended mixed, with Germany's DAX up 0.06 percent to close at 7,405.50. France's CAC40 fell 0.33 percent to finish at 3,557.28. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 dipped 0.06 percent to end at 5,866.82.

Asian markets ended higher, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index up 0.85 percent to finish at 1,980.12. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.48 percent to finish at 9,446.01. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.49 percent to end at 22,030.39. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,339.90, up 0.88 percent.

Commodity & Currency Scan

Crude oil futures rose 0.87 percent to $88.84 per barrel, while natural gas futures dropped 1.86 percent to $3.58 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures dropped 0.76 percent to $1,716.3 per ounce and silver futures retreated 2.70 percent to $33.50 per ounce.

In the currency market, the euro added 0.20 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3005. The British pound edged 0.12 percent lower against the greenback to 1.6021, while the dollar rose 0.39 percent against the Japanese yen to 82.4400.



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