14/12/2012 16:40:00

U.S. Stocks Little Changed as Tech Slump Offsets China Data

--U.S. stocks little changed as Apple slides

--Europe edged mostly lower on mixed euro-zone data

--Chinese stocks rally after upbeat factory reading

By Matt Jarzemsky

NEW YORK--Stocks were little changed Friday as Apple weighed on technology shares, offsetting upbeat Chinese manufacturing data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose four points, or less than 0.1%, to 13175 in midmorning trading. But the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index retreated three points, or 0.2%, to 1417, and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 14 points, or 0.5%, to 2979.

Technology shares saw the biggest drop among the S&P 500's 10 sectors as Apple, the most valuable U.S. company, fell 3.3%. A federal jury found that the technology giant infringed three patents related to mobile-device technologies belonging to a company partly owned by Nokia and Sony Corp. of America. Nokia's U.S.-listed shares rose.

Consumer prices fell more than economists had forecast in November as gasoline prices tumbled, according to the Commerce Department. Removing volatile food and energy costs, consumer prices edged up slightly less than economists had predicted.

Mostly mild inflation has allowed the Federal Reserve, which targets a 2% annual inflation rate, to keep interest rates near zero without causing price spikes.

U.S. industrial production jumped in November, mainly because factories idled by superstorm Sandy were restarted, the Federal Reserve reported. The result topped economists' expectations. Capacity utilization also rose more than expected.

Meanwhile, investors continued to watch for signs of progress in U.S. budget talks.

"I think the fiscal cliff is really what's on everybody's mind," said Roger Pine, financial advisor at Briaud Financial Advisors. "People are probably taking their foot off the accelerator in both directions."

European markets edged mostly lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.1%, as investors weighed strong Chinese data against some mixed data out of Europe.

An early read of Markit's euro-zone purchasing managers' composite output index rose to 47.3 in December from November's 46.5 to reach the highest reading in nine months. Still, readings below 50 indicate contraction.

Germany's December composite output PMI climbed to 50.5 in December, but the manufacturing PMI slipped to 46.3. In France, the composite PMI ticked higher, but new orders fell at the steepest rate since April 2009.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 slid 0.3%. Standard & Poor's cut its outlook on the country's triple-A rating to negative from stable Thursday after European markets closed.

Asian markets got a lift from a big jump in Chinese stocks, after a preliminary December reading of HSBC's China manufacturing PMI rose to 14-month high of 50.9, indicating manufacturing activity expanded for a second straight month. In addition, hopes were increasing that the annual central economic work conference, expected to be held this weekend, would result in policies aimed at supporting growth.

China's Shanghai Composite jumped 4.3%, its biggest daily gain since 2009, putting the index at a four-month high. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.7% to a 16-month high.

Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average slipped 0.1% after the Bank of Japan's tankan index in December, a survey of business sentiment among large manufacturers, fell more than expected.

Crude-oil futures climbed 0.5% to $86.35 a barrel, while gold futures edged up less than 0.1% to $1,697.30 an ounce. The dollar lost ground against the yen and the euro. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose in price to yield 1.702%.

Adobe Systems gained 4.9% after the software maker reported quarterly results that topped analysts' expectations.

VeriFone Systems declined 10% after the electronic payment services company reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that matched expectations but revenue that fell a bit shy and provided a first-quarter earnings view that was below current projections.

Centene slid 9.3% after the Medicaid insurer slashed its full-year 2012 earnings outlook, citing higher medical costs, and provided a 2013 revenue outlook that was below current analyst estimates.

Best Buy dropped 15% after its board extended the deadline for Richard Shulze, the company's founder and biggest shareholder, to bid to buy the struggling electronic retailer.

Write to Matt Jarzemsky at matthew.jarzemsky@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 14, 2012 11:40 ET (16:40 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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