(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a mixed note as investors digested better-than-expected service-sector data even as focus remained on negotiations over a deal to avert the the looming "fiscal cliff".
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.16 percent to end at 1,409.27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.64 percent to finish at 13,034.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index retreated 0.77 percent to close at 2,973.70.
Investors continue to remain concerned over whether lawmakers in Washington will be able to reach an agreement to address the so-called "fiscal cliff". President Barack Obama has reiterated his push 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.
Also weighing on the sentiment were positive comments by Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who said the country will keep macroeconomic policies stable to sustain growth.
On the domestic economic front, the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index - a measure of service- sector activity - rose to 54.7 percent last month from 54.2 percent in October, while economists expected a reading of 53.5. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Another report showed U.S. economy added fewer private sector jobs than expected in November. According to the ADP National Employment Report in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, U.S. private sector added just 118,000 jobs in November, versus economists expectations of an addition of 125,000 jobs and a revised 157,000 jobs in October.
"Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market in November, slicing an estimated 86,000 jobs from payrolls," Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, said. "Abstracting from the storm, the job market turned in a good performance during the month."
The keenly-awaited Labor Department's non-farm payrolls data and unemployment rate are due on Friday.
In other data, nonfarm business sector labor productivity advanced at a 2.9 percent rate for the third quarter, coming in better than economists expectations of a 2.7 percent rise. Unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses fell 1.9 percent, sharper than expectations of a drop of 0.9 percent.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: AAPL, C, NOK, FCX, CIE, P, OXM, MFRM, ALTR, CHTP
In corporate news, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) retreated 6.43 percent. At least one clearing firm is raising margin requirements for clients that trade in Apple, according to StreetInsider.
Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) surged 6.33 percent after the financial services giant said it will slash 11,000 jobs, or roughly 4 percent of its workforce, and take a related charge of $1 billion in the fourth quarter.
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) jumped 12.79 percent after the Finnish cell phone maker launched its Lumia 620 Windows Phone 8 handset.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) dropped 15.96 percent after the miner agreed to acquire Plains Exploration & Production Co. (NYSE: PXP) and Mcmoran Exploration Co. (NYSE: MMR) for $9 billion in cash and stock.
Cobalt International Energy Inc. (NYSE: CIE) climbed 18.63 percent after the exploration company announced a "significant" oil discovery at its North Platte prospect in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) slumped 17.46 percent after the internet radio company forecast an unexpected loss for the fourth quarter and issued a downbeat revenue guidance.
Oxford Industries Inc. (NYSE: OXM) tumbled 8.05 percent after the apparel company guided fourth-quarter below Wall Street view. Third-quarter earnings jumped 85.3 percent on continued strong sales performance from Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer brands.
Tibco Software Inc. (NASDAQ: TIBX) retreated 19.09 percent after the company forecast fourth-quarter and full-year earnings that trailed Wall Street expectations.
Altera Corp. (NASDAQ: ALTR) shed 3.67 percent after the company said it expects revenue for the fourth quarter to drop by 8 percent to 10 percent on a sequential basis compared with 6 percent to 10 percent decline projected earlier.
Mattress Firm Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: MFRM) lost 21.93 percent after the company slashed its 2012 guidance and issued a downbeat fourth-quarter forecast.
Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHTP) slumped 36.38 percent after the company announced results from a late-stage trial of its experimental Parkinson's disease treatment.
European markets closed in green, with Germany's DAX up 0.26 percent to close at 7,454.55. France's CAC40 added 0.28 percent to finish at 3,590.50. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 0.39 percent to end at 5,892.08.
Asian markets closed higher, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index jumping 2.87 percent to finish at 2,031.91. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.39 percent to finish at 9,468.84. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 2.16 percent to end at 22,270.91. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,391.86, up 0.23 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures fell 0.73 percent to $87.85 per barrel, while natural gas futures jumped 4.24 percent to $3.69 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures shed 0.04 percent to $1,695.2 per ounce while silver futures rose 0.40 percent to $32.94 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro dipped 0.15 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3075. The British pound shed 0.06 percent against the greenback to 1.6092, while the dollar gained 0.62 percent against the Japanese yen to 82.4100.