(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed in red on a holiday-shortened trading day for Wall Street amid continued uncertainty whether an agreement will be reached in Washington to avert the looming "fiscal cliff".
The S&P 500 Index retreated 0.24 percent to end at 1,426.66. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.39 percent to finish at 13,139.62. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.28 percent to close at 3,012.60.
Contributing to the weakness reflects a continuing impasse on talks to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases set to begin in January.
The stock markets will be shut on Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.
There were no U.S. economic data released on Monday.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: YHOO, YUM, HLF, RF, AEGR, ALXA, OIIM
In corporate news, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) gained 1.55 percent. Needham raised price target on the stock to $26 from $19.
Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) rose 1.77 percent. The level of antibiotics used in chicken served in the restaurant operator's KFC restaurants complied with official limits, the Chinese health regulators said.
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) dropped for the fourth straight day. Shares of the company fell sharply last week after Pershing Square's Bill Ackman disclosed he is shorting the stock. Due to trading blackout period restrictions, the company said on Monday that it has yet to utilize the $950 million remaining on its existing $1 billion share repurchase authorization. The stock closed 4.44 percent lower.
Regions Financial Corp. (NYSE: RF) shed 1.69 percent. The bank is the subject of a probe by federal agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AEGR) fell 1.79 percent. The U.S. health regulators have cleared its drug to treat a rare genetic disease that results in extreme elevation of blood cholesterol levels. The FDA approved JUXTAPID capsules contains a Boxed Warning citing the risk of hepatic toxicity, the company said.
Alexza Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXA) tumbled 13.82 percent. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the company's Adasuve inhalation powder to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
O2Micro International Ltd. (NASDAQ: OIIM) lost 4.32 percent after the developer of integrated circuits cut its fourth-quarter revenue outlook, citing broad-based weakness in demand.
European markets closed on a mixed note, with France's CAC40 falling 0.24 percent to finish at 3,652.61. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 added 0.24 percent to end at 5,954.18. Germany DAX was closed for a holiday.
Asian markets too ended mixed, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index up 0.27 percent to finish at 2,159.05. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.16 percent to end at 22,541.18. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,255, up 0.07 percent. The Japanese market is shut for a holiday.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures dipped 0.10 percent to $88.57 per barrel, and natural gas futures fell 2.81 percent to $3.35 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures fell 0.03 percent to $1,659.6 per ounce and silver futures dropped 0.94 percent to $29.92 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro slid 0.05 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3181. The British pound lost 0.27 percent against the greenback to 1.6129, while the dollar added 0.63 percent against the Japanese yen to 84.7700.