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U.S. Stocks Little Changed as Consumer, Commodity Shares Climb

U.S. stocks were little changed as consumer, industrial and commodity companies rose, helping the market reverse an early drop triggered by lower-than-forecast factory orders and concern Europe’s banks need to raise capital.

Ford Motor Co. gained 2.7 percent as carmakers reported December vehicle sales that beat analysts’ estimates, capping the U.S. auto industry’s best year since 2008. Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and Starbucks Corp. advanced at least 1.5 percent after the International Council of Shopping Centers increased its estimate for December retail-sales growth.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped less than 0.1 percent to 1,276.61 at 12:20 p.m. New York time, after tumbling as much as 0.7 percent earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 5.3 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 12,402.68.

The S&P 500 lost 0.04 point to 1,257.60 in 2011, the smallest annual change since 1947. The benchmark gauge for U.S. equities surged 14 percent from last year’s lowest level on Oct. 3 through Dec. 30 as better-than-estimated economic data fueled optimism the world’s largest economy can shrug off concern over Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis. Stocks rallied 1.6 percent yesterday, sending the Dow to the highest level since July, amid signs that manufacturing output is increasing from China to Australia and America.

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