Stocks Finish Lower

Investors took some profits, despite reports of a solid start to the holiday shopping season

Stocks finished lower on some profit taking following the recent rally, despite a solid start to the holiday shopping season and crude oil falling below $58 a barrel amid forecasts for warm weather in the northeastern U.S.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 40.9 points to 10,890.72. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 10.79 points to 1,257.46. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index lost 23.64 points to 2,239.37.

The National Retail Foundation reported sales were up 22% for the Thanksgiving weekend, reports Action Economics. Sales of electronics and discount store activity were the backbone of the strong early season retail results. Online shopping increased 22% on Black Friday, while Visa reported an 11.4% increase in spending on Friday and Saturday combined. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart (WMT ) sales were up a solid 4.3% in November, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, some retail stocks headed lower, as the strong reports of Thanksgiving holiday weekend sales appear to have been priced into the shares, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

Among companies in the news, Merck (MRK ) announced a restructuring plan aimed at saving $4 billion, but will be at the price of 7,000 jobs and closure of 5 manufacturing facilities.

First Data (FDC ) Chairman and CEO Charles T. Forte advised the board he is retiring from the company for personal reasons. Henry C. Duques will return as Chairman and CEO.

In deal news, American Pharmaceutical Partners (APPX ), a maker of generic hospital drugs, plans to acquire its largest shareholder, closely-held American BioScience. APPX will issue to American BioScience shareholders about 86 million APPX shares, raising American BioScience shareholders' fully diluted ownership of the new company to 83.5% from 64.4% currently owned.

In economic news, U.S. existing home sales fell to a solid 7.09 million units in October, despite fears of a larger drop, and a counter-seasonal 2.9% median price surge to $218,000.

This week's economic plate is full, culminating Friday with the November employment report and comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Tuesday's schedule includes durable goods, consumer confidence, and new home sales. Wednesday includes revised third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), Chicago PMI, and the Fed's Beige Book for the Dec. 13 FOMC meeting. ISM, personal income, PCE, vehicle sales, and jobless claims are all due out Thursday.

In Europe, London's FTSE-100, Germany's DAX, and France's CAC-40 indexes rose modestly. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei index jumped 202.65 points to 14,986.94. The Hang Seng index edged up 18.53 points to 15,100.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields remained under pressure after the home sales report, says Action Economics. Weaker oil prices didn't take much toll on bonds, says Action Economics. The benchmark 10-year note yield fell to 4.40%.

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