(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended on a negative note, weighed by a sharp drop in Apple shares and continued 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 lost 0.41 percent to end at 1,413.60. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.27 percent to finish at 13,134.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.70 percent to close at 2,971.33.
President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner reportedly held "frank" talks on Thursday to address the looming "fiscal cliff" of steep tax increases and spending cuts. Obama has pushed for higher taxes on wealthy Americans to avert the fiscal cliff of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could hit economic growth.
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On the U.S. data front, a report showed that core consumer price index inched up 0.1 percent in November, while the headline index fell 0.3 percent. Economists expected the core reading to rise 0.2 percent and the headline index to drop 0.2 percent.
Industrial production jumped 1.1 percent in November after a revised 0.7 percent drop in October, a report from the Federal Reserve showed. Economists expected a 0.3 percent rise in November output.
China's manufacturing activity climbed to a 14-month high of 50.9 in December, data released by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed. A level above 50 indicates expansion.
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In corporate news, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) fell 3.74 percent after UBS lowered its price target on the stock to $700 from $780. The technology behemoth also saw a lukewarm launch for iPhone 5 in China.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) retreated 14.66 percent. The struggling electronics retailer agreed to extend the deadline for its founder Richard Schulze to make an offer to take the company private.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) lost 5.06 percent after fourth lock-up period expired, making another 156 million shares of the social-networking giant eligible for sale.
Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARIA) said U.S. regulators have approved its drug Iclusig (ponatinib) to treat two rare types of leukemia. Iclusig is being approved with a Boxed Warning alerting patients and health care professionals that the drug can cause blood clots and liver toxicity, the FDA said. Shares plunged 20.69 percent.
Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) jumped 5.77 percent after the software company reported stronger-than-forecast earnings and revenue for the fourth quarter as operating expenses fell.
VeriFone Systems Inc. (NYSE: PAY) retreated 10.92 percent after the electronic payment technology provider offered a downbeat earnings outlook for the first quarter.
Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC) lost 9.45 percent after the St. Louis, Missouri-based multiline healthcare company sharply slashed its earnings outlook for full year 2012, citing an increase in medical costs.
Quiksilver Inc. (NYSE: ZQK) slumped 13.02 percent after the apparel and footwear designer posted weaker-than-expected fourth quarter earnings and sales amid contraction of margins.
European markets ended mixed, with Germany's DAX up 0.19 percent to close at 7,596.47. France's CAC40 finished flat at 3,643.28. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.13 percent to end at 5,921.76.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index jumped 4.32 percent to finish at 2,150.62. Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.05 percent to close at 9,737.56. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.71 percent to end at 22,605.98. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,317.25, up 0.46 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures climbed 1.11 percent to $86.84 per barrel, while natural gas futures fell 1.08 percent to $3.31 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures added 0.05 percent to $1,697.6 per ounce while silver futures slipped 0.03 percent to $32.35 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 0.60 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3156. The British pound gained 0.28 percent against the greenback to 1.6157, while the dollar shed 0.17 percent against the Japanese yen to 83.5100.