Stocks Finish Flat

A weak dollar kept a lid on the major indexes in a thinly traded post-holiday session

Stocks finished mostly flat Friday, after the dollar plunged to a record low against the euro on growing concerns about U.S. current account deficit and the Federal Reserve's determination to keep interest rates at low levels for months to come, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope. The price of gold was a bit higher, as a result of the weak dollar.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 2.8 points, or 0.03%, to 9,782.46. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 0.25 point, or 0.02%, to 1,058.2. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 6.95 points, or 0.36%, to 1,960.26.

Next week, the key economic report is Friday's employment data. Most economists expect 147,000 new nonfarm jobs were added in November, and the unemployment rate to remain at 6.0%.

On Monday, auto and truck sales, and the Institute of Supply Management manufacturing index will be reported. Wednesday brings an update on productivity, followed by weekly jobless claims on Thursday. Also coming Friday is factory orders and consumer credit.

The dollar was the main story for traders Friday as it hit a new record low vs. the euro ($1.20) and 10-year lows against the Swiss franc and Canadian dollar, says economic research outfit MMS International. "There were no fresh developments to hurt the U.S. unit -- just an ongoing sense that despite strong economic data, the Fed will remain sidelined longer than most other central banks," says MMS. Traders were concerned that the continued slide of the dollar would begin to cause an exodus of foreign investment which would weigh on stocks, notes MMS.

Friday also marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. Among stocks on the move Friday, semiconductor and biotech were higher in slow trading.

In the pharmaceuticals area, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ) fell slightly after the company halted several clinical trials of its popular anemia drug Procrit because of adverse reactions. The trials of Procrit were aimed at boosting hemoglobin levels to make radiation or chemotherapy more effective in cancer patients.

Schering-Plough (SGP ) was up after CEO Fred Hassan purchased $4.68 million worth of stock, citing long-term confidence in the company.

8X8 (EGHT ) was one of the voice-over Internet protocol stocks continuing their upward momentum following recent positive comments from Net2Phone's (NTOP ) CEO, according to a report.

U.S. stock markets had a shortened session Friday, with trading ending at 1 p.m. in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Treasury Market

Treasuries ended lower in price, as the market remained in a defensive mode on strong economic data Wednesday and more losses in the dollar, says economic research outfit MMS International. No data or events were due for the shortened post-Thanksgiving session. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 4.32%.

World Markets

European stock markets were mixed to lower. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index fell 18.5 points, or 0.42%, to 4,342.6.

In Paris, the CAC 40 was down 6.87 points, or 0.2%, to 3,424.79 even though French unemployment fell unexpectedly in October. Germany's DAX index was up 1 point, or 0.03%, to 3,746 as German machinery orders rose in November for the first time in three months.

Asian markets finished mixed Friday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 62.81 points, or 0.62%, to 10,100.57. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index jumped 241.48 points, or 2%, to 12,317.47.

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