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November 28, 2006 > U.S. stocks fall, ending short week quietly

U.S. stocks fall, ending short week quietly

by Tim Paradis

NEW YORK (AP), Nov 24 _ Stocks fell Friday in thin trading, ending a shortened week quietly as the holiday shopping season began and attention turned to retailers and a steep decline in the dollar against other major currencies. The major stock indexes ended the week mixed, with only the Nasdaq composite index showing a gain.

The day after Thanksgiving _ called Black Friday because by tradition it's the day when a holiday shopping-surge could help boost store profits _ appeared to be a busy one for retailers. Shoppers seeking post-holiday bargains inundated stores. Without tallies from cash register receipts, however, investors were forced to examine little more than anecdotal evidence as they tried to determine how sales for the all-important holiday season would fare.

With the stock markets closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and many investors taking a holiday Friday, Wall Street saw a quiet, shortened session. The thin trading volume typical of the post-Thanksgiving Friday can sometimes lead to erratic movements. The stock markets closed at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), rather than 4 p.m.

Richard Sparks, an analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, noted stocks pulled off their lows of the session as investors pared concerns about the strength of retail sales and the dollar, though he noted some pessimism remained. ``I think those concerns are keeping some traders on the sidelines.''

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.78, or 0.38 percent, to 12,280.17.

Broader stock indicators ended lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 5.14, or 0.37 percent, at 1,400.95, managing to stay above the 1,400 mark. The Nasdaq was down 5.72, or 0.23 percent, at 2,460.26.

For the week, the Dow fell 0.51 percent and the S&P slipped 0.02 percent, while the Nasdaq gained 0.59 percent.

Bonds rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.55 percent from 4.56 percent late Wednesday.

Light, sweet crude rose 66 cents to $59.90 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. There was no floor trading because of the extended holiday.

The dollar fell against other major currencies in thin holiday dealing. Gold prices rose.

A weakening dollar stirred concerns of inflation. Investors have been hoping a softer inflation picture would prompt the Federal Reserve to eventually lower short-term interest rates. The central bank has left rates unchanged at its last three meetings, interrupting a string of 17 straight increases that began in 2004.

Sparks sees concerns about a weaker dollar as a positive because of the run-up stocks have enjoyed in recent months. ``We always want to see something out there that the market is worried about,'' he said, adding that such concerns help keep stocks from getting ahead of themselves.

But the past week didn't see sizable moves in either direction as investors tried to determine if the markets could maintain or build upon gains seen in October and November. Often, stocks rise toward the end of a quarter as portfolio managers, concerned about their returns, spruce up their holdings in what's called ``window dressing.''

In the past week, however, investors shied from making big plays despite a series of acquisition announcements, including a $26 billion bid by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. for Phelps Dodge Corp. Also of note, Google Inc. saw its shares move above $500 for the first time; the stock ended Friday at $505, down $3.01.

In corporate news, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. jumped 80 cents, or 15.2 percent, to $6.06 Friday after private equity concern Carlyle Group said it is in talks to acquire the company, which tests and assembles computer chips, for $5.46 billion.

Family Dollar Stores Inc. fell 55 cents to $28.43 after the discounter said it won't meet Friday's late filing deadline for its financial results for the year ended Aug. 26. The company cited an investigation into stock-option practices.

Systemax Inc., a computer retailer and distributor, rose $2.08, or 17.2 percent, to $14.20 after its fiscal second-quarter profit rose more than fourfold as sales increased 8.1 percent and costs fell.

Stores drew attention from some investors. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, fell 13 cents to $47.90, while Federated Stores Inc., parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, rose 4 cents to $43.11. Electronics chain Best Buy Co. slipped 76 cents to $55.08, while luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. shed 2 cents to $37.32. Apple Computer Inc. rose $1.32 to $91.63.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.63, or 0.08 percent, to 792.28.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to a light 852 million shares.

___

The Dow Jones industrials ended the week down 62.39, or 0.51 percent, to finish at 12,280.17. The S&P 500 index fell 0.25, or 0.02 percent, to end the week at 1,400.95. The Nasdaq rose 14.40, or 0.59 percent, to finish the week at 2,460.26.

The Russell 2000 index closed the week up 3.81, or 0.48 percent, at 792.28.

The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index _ a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 U.S. based companies_ ended the week at 14,136.25, up 38.13 points from last week. A year ago the index was at 12,702.41.

 
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