Stocks stall as profit-taking sets in

The Dow and S&P 500 move lower, but the major indexes are enjoying their best week since 2009. Big Thanksgiving promotions worked for many retailers. Automakers report strong November sales. Oil briefly falls below $100.

By Charley Blaine Dec 1, 2011 2:13PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 7.44 p.m. ET

Today was what one would call a consolidation day. Stocks have been on a three-day tear and are looking at their best weekly gains -- 7% and higher -- since at least July 2009.

So, it's understandable that some investors want to cash in their profits now -- especially when there's so much uncertainty in Europe and elsewhere. And they did. The major averages ended basically flat.

There are other good reasons to justify taking a breather. The Labor Department releases the November jobs report before Friday's open. Jobless claims were higher in the latest week. Barnes & Noble (BKS) results missed estimates; shares were off 16.3% to $14.59. So did Krispy Kreme (KKD); shares dropped to $7.14. Retailers reported mixed November sales. Costco Wholesale (COST) and Ross Stores (ROST) beat estimates; Kohl's (KSS) and Gap (GPS) did not.

The Institute for Supply Management's U.S. manufacturing index came in better than expected, with improved order and production growth and easing cost pressures. Automakers in November had their best monthly sales since August 2009.

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) closed down 26 points to 12,020. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) was off 2 points to 1,245. The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX), however, added 6 points to 2,626.

Article continues below.
If you are a bull, you had to be cheered by the market's resilience. The Dow was down as many as 71 points at 12:55 p.m. ET.

With a day to go in the week, the Dow is up 7%, with the S&P 500 up nearly 7.4% and the Nasdaq up 7.6%. The Dow's gain -- if it holds -- would be its best since July 2009. The gains for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq would be their best since March 2009.

Futures trading suggests a modestly higher open for U.S. stocks. Japanese stocks opened slightly higher as well.

Sounds good, but, if the unemployment report comes in badly, all bets are off. The report will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Right now, the consensus estimate is for the unemployment rate to hold at 9% and for nonfarm payrolls to rise by 125,000. There's talk that nonfarm payrolls could rise to 140,000 or more. That's based on a bullish reading from the ADP National Employment Report, which estimate private payrolls rose by 206,000 in November.

Crude oil, gold dip
Commodities were mostly lower -- but, like stocks, not a lot lower. Crude oil (-CL) in New York dropped to as low as $98.87 a barrel but rallied into the close to settle at $100.20, off just 16 cents. Brent crude was down $1.60 to $108.92 a barrel.

Analysts said the declines were due to higher jobless claims and reports of weakening manufacturing in Europe and China.

China's manufacturing contracted in November for the first time since February 2009, a purchasing managers’ index compiled by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed.

Gold (-GC) settled down $10.50 to $1,739.80 an ounce. Copper (-HG) dropped 4.15 cents to $3.534 a pound, and silver (-SI) settled off 4.5 cents to $32.769 an ounce.

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9 Dow stocks move up, led by Boeing
Only nine of the 30 Dow stocks were higher, led by Boeing (BA), up 3.3% to $70.98, after the company and unions tentatively agreed to a new contract that would keep most manufacturing in the Seattle area.

Meanwhile, 59 Nasdaq-100 ($NDX) stocks were higher, led by Sirius XM Radio (SIRI), up 4.4% to $1.88, and Netflix (NFLX), up 4.1% to $67.17.

The index, which tracks the largest stocks, was up 14 points to 2,309. Apple (AAPL), up 1.5% to $387.93, contributed nearly 5 points to the Nasdaq-100 gain.

Technology was the S&P 500's strongest sector. Financials were the weak links. One reason: JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and other banks were hit by a Massachusetts lawsuit against five big mortgage lenders, alleging foreclosure fraud. JPMorgan fell 1.7% to $30.46.

Those late Thanksgiving sales worked, but . . .
Retailers that stuck with their same old holiday-season strategies were dealt a blow in November, Reuters reported today. But earlier hours and bigger promotions were the keys to success for other chains.

Overall, November sales at stores open at least a year rose, as expected, but there were clear winners and losers for November, a critical month for retailers.

Retailers rolled out midnight door-buster sales after Thanksgiving, free shipping for online orders and other special deals to entice shoppers who may have been reluctant in the face of economic pressure.

Such tactics paid off for chains such as Macy's (M) and Saks (SKS). Their sales were up 4.8% and 9.3%, respectively. Meanwhile, Kohl's and J.C. Penney (JCP) were among the few that flopped.

The 20 chains that had reported monthly same-store sales as of Thursday morning posted an average increase of 3.1%, Reuters said. In November 2010, the same companies saw sales jumped 5.5%.

Retail sales were up modestly today, in part because of that dichotomy between those that promoted heavily over the Thanksgiving weekend and those that didn't. Luxury and electronics retailers had strong months.

Apparel sales weren't as robust. Warm weather in the Midwest and East may have affected business.

If you look at the larger picture, November sales weren't much to write home about, which is why the Standard & Poor's Retail Index ($RLX) is up only 0.6% to 531. The International Council of Shopping Centers said November sales were up 3.2%, the slowest increase since March.

Nordstrom (JWN) was up 4% to $47.10. Ross Stores added 3.6% to $92.28. TJX Companies (TJX), which runs the TJ Maxx chain, rose 1.4% to $62.56.

Kohl's fell 6.4% to $50.37.

A strong month for auto sales
Buyers snapped up cars in November, making the month one of the most successful for auto sales since the "cash for clunkers" days of 2009. Autodata, a market-research firm, said sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.63 million units, the best monthly performance of the year and the best since 2009.

Experts said automakers rolled out the deals last month, offering end-of-year discounts and other incentives for buyers looking for a new car before the holidays. At the same time, lenders appeared to loosen up requirements a bit.
Analysts expected heavy light-vehicle deliveries to push the seasonally adjusted annual rate to as much as 13.6 million -- higher than the 13.3 million seen for October and the 12.3 million a year earlier. The month again made auto sales a bedrock in an otherwise tumultuous consumer economy.

General Motors (GM) sales were up 6.9%, a touch less than expected. Ford Motor (F) sales were up 13%; Fiesta, Fusion, Escape, Explorer and F-Series trucks sales double-digit sales gains. Chrysler sales were up 45%.

The results weren't doing much for the stocks. GM shares were down 1.6% to $20.96. Ford shares were off a penny to $10.59. Toyota (TM), whose sales were up 6.7%, was off 0.3% to $65.72 in New York. Honda (HMC) was down 0.2% to $31.59 after sales dropped 10%.

Separately, GM said it would buy back any Chevrolet Volt vehicle from an owner worried about fires. Three fires broke out seven days after side-impact crash tests done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Manufacturing shows surprising strength

Factories shrugged off weakness in the global economy during November as manufacturing activity rose to its highest level in five months, giving a fresh sign that the American economy could be accelerating.

The Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to 52.7 from 50.8 the month before. The reading topped expectations of 51.5, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

"What makes this rebound all the more remarkable (or suspicious looking) is that manufacturing should be the sector most exposed to the downturn elsewhere," wrote Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics.

Separately, the Commerce Department said construction spending rose 0.8% to an annual rate of $798.53 billion.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time rose by 6,000 to 402,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended Nov. 26, up from a revised 396,000 in the previous week. Economists had expected to see claims fall to 390,000.

Yahoo and La-Z-Boy climb

Yahoo (YHOO) climbed 3.3% to $16.23. It had been as high as $16.46.

Alibaba Group Holding and Softbank  are in advanced talks with Blackstone Group and Bain Capital about making a bid for all of the U.S. Web portal, Bloomberg News said. The group is apparently thinking of a bid around $20 a share.
La-Z-Boy (LZB) jumped 16.9% to $11.57 after surging as much as 40%.  The maker of living-room recliners reported second-quarter earnings of 15 cents a share, beating the average analyst estimate by 1 cent, Bloomberg said.

Short hits from the markets -- New York close



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Dec 1, 2011 2:44PM
Oil falls below $100....It needs to fall to $25. I will be glad when some of that magical inventions of the future takes hold today and we need Oil for nothing!
Dec 1, 2011 2:52PM
oh, now it's "profit-taking" but a couple hours ago it was "tepid employment numbers" or was it "fears of Europe crisis"? People who sell stocks aren't asked to give a reason, so stop the guessing game.
Dec 1, 2011 3:19PM
The acceleration of the American economy can only be attributed to the leadership put forth by President Obama. 



Dec 1, 2011 3:03PM

As long as we have a "tepid" government, primarily interested in one, thing, their own reelections, and a "global" market, and so many day traders allowed to grab so many "brass rings," this market will not rebound to REALISTIC levels people can rely on..

As a person on a fixed income, (read "retired,") this is very taxing, in more ways than one.

We need a S.E.C. that is doing its job, and not just here, but world wide.  Until that happens, and the so-called "watchdogs" get off their backsides and do the job they are paid exhorbitant salaries for, they are nothing but "the foxes guarding the hen house."

Dec 1, 2011 4:31PM
BLUECARS2 Is right . Get oil down to a reasonable prise, i don't think it will see $ 25 but if it went down to maybe $45 or $50 things would at least have a chance to stabilize a bit. plus getting rid of some of the members of Congress that are to caught up on themselves to see the writing on the wall . Oh and no( Happy Holidays) here , hope you all have a( Merry Christmas  !!!!!) 
Dec 1, 2011 4:26PM

The rally was caused by central banks offering more debt to solve the problem of too much debt....Give me a break.

Dec 1, 2011 3:41PM
The number of Americans who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time rose by 6,000 to 402,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended Nov. 26 from a revised 396,000 in the previous week. Economists had expected to see claims fall to 390,000 from the originally reported 393,000 the prior week.

So in simple math another 12K house's  going into foreclosure in a couple of months. Got it.
Dec 1, 2011 3:08PM
Oil  BS  10 or 9% unemployed rate so  thats a large decrease in usage w/alot ppl not driveing to work and such so that should be a drop in demand .....   Now when the unemployment rate eventually drops say 1 2 or 3.   you'll see well over 100 a barrel and close to 5$gal.   bunch of crap..
Dec 1, 2011 3:59PM
Trust me my name is Jon Corzine ?  I will take good care of your hard earned money= MF GLOBAL !
Dec 1, 2011 3:47PM

"A Republican President can do a better job in accelerating the American economy than the current administration."

"The acceleration of the American economy can only be attributed to the leadership put forth by President Obama."

Quess what folks.  It is politics as usual with ALL political parties.  All their infighting, with ALL the politicians around the world, are dragging us all over the brink, and into a disaster.

Until we stop being greedy, and petty, and realize we are ALL human, and RESPONSIBLE for our actions, nothing is actually going to change.

Dec 1, 2011 5:29PM
Is it just me, or is anyone else relieved any time the Dow closes down 25 for the day?
Dec 1, 2011 3:41PM
sowhatsyourproblem.........DITTO........​....HOGWASH INDEED!  I f Americans look closely, they will see how his "tax ideas" will affect ALL Americans!
Dec 1, 2011 4:28PM
The debt that the central bankers are papering over is structural debt. Can you say Black hole boys and girls?
Dec 1, 2011 8:53PM
AutoOil is a Beast all it's own, unlike a normal commodity oil is simply controlled by the producers. OPEC can flood there market and drive the price down or they can tighten there sphincters and drive the price up at any time. Does anybody really believe we invaded Iraq to find weapons that didn't exist or did we want to stabilize the region to protect Saudi Arabia? The price of oil is carefully controlled by the wealthiest people alive and they will always push the consumer to see what we'll payAirplane
Dec 1, 2011 5:25PM
Maico191, I will take a 4% gain followed by a 0.2% loss on any back to back days of the week.
Dec 1, 2011 4:10PM

"Stocks Slip as Profit-Taking Sets In"


OMG a new heading!!!!!!!!!!!!!​ Too bad you then went and said investors are taking their profits because of uncertainty in Europe.


All that really hapened is the some of the "Investors" jumped the gun on the next mass sell-off, but not enough to get the fallout that they wanted.


Sorry you don't get to ride that wave this time. Hopefully the casino is closed for good but somehow I doubt it.

Dec 1, 2011 8:00PM
surprise !!!,surprise!!!!!! - profit taking is stalling stocks an insider trading is suddenly hot topic in congress. couldn't be they stopped arguing long enough to realize voting is not so far away. That's ok- they already made enough to carry them through to retirement.
Dec 1, 2011 9:50PM
By our outsourcing of jobs to developing countries, these countries now compete for oil.  When everyone in China and India have a car, oil will be much higher than it is today.  And what do you think the air quality for the world will be then?
Dec 1, 2011 10:56PM
Oil prices are not going down no matter how much less we use or how much inventory we gain because the Greedy speculators will not let it go down. They want to make a killing on oil, but the only thing that they are killing is the chances for our economy to come back. Greed is a terrible thing.
Dec 1, 2011 5:29PM
Hmmmmm.., So, idiots on wall street just think they know what they're doing, is that right? Just guessing? I see. You ever stop to consider that they might know exactly what they're doing? Guess not. My money is that they do, and I'm along for the ride. Pick a few good companies, and make some money. Works for me. 
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