(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended on a lower note as continued worries over the looming "fiscal cliff" and a soft report on holiday sales weighed on the sentiment.
The S&P 500 Index retreated 0.48 percent to end at 1,419.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.19 percent to finish at 13,114.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.74 percent to close at 2,990.16.
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 continue to dent sentiment.
On the data front, the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index - which measures the change in the selling price of single-family homes in 20 metropolitan areas - rose 4.3 percent for the 12 months ended October, after a 3 percent increase till September.
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Retail stocks were lower after a report by MasterCard SpendingPulse showed U.S. holiday sales grew just 0.7 percent from the same period last year at the slowest pace since 2008.
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In corporate news, Research In Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) soared 11.59 percent following a 25 percent plunge after its recent quartely report showed subscriber base declined and service revenue is at risk. The company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphones are slated to go on sale next month.
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Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL) tumbled 10.30 percent after being reportedly ordered by a federal jury to pay $1.17 billion in damages in a patent infringement suit.
Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (NYSE: GOL) reiterated it is mulling a public market debut for its Smiles frequent-flyer operation. U.S.-listed shares surged 9.09 percent.
Medifast Inc. (NYSE: MED) plunged 13.15 percent after the company's acting Finance Chief Edward Powers announced plans to resign. Powers became acting Chief Financial Officer on November 13.
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) rose 5.18 percent. The nutrition company has hired legal firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP to fight Bill Ackman after the hedge fund manager disclosed last week he has shorted the stock.
European markets remained shut for public holidays.
Asian markets ended higher, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index up 0.25 percent to finish at 2,219.13. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.49 percent to close at 10,230.36. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,417.46, up 0.84 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is closed for a holiday.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures climbed 2.76 percent to $91.06 per barrel, and natural gas futures added 0.69 percent to $3.37 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures inched up 0.10 percent to $1,661.3 per ounce and silver futures gained 0.44 percent to $30.03 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 0.33 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3227. The British pound gained 0.07 percent against the greenback to 1.6137, and the dollar jumped 1.01 percent against the Japanese yen to 85.6300.