U.S. Stocks Close Little Changed as House Passes Budget

U.S. stocks were little changed, capping the worst week for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since August, with losses in oil producers and phone shares offsetting gains after the House of Representatives passed a budget deal.

Adobe Systems Inc. climbed 13 percent as it attracted more subscribers to its online software in the quarter than some analysts had predicted. Texas Industries Inc. jumped 14 percent as people familiar with the matter said it is seeking a buyer. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. fell 6.4 percent, leading energy stocks lower as a judge ruled the company may have to pay as much as $14 billion in a case related to the spinoff of Tronox Inc.

The S&P 500 fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,775.32 at 4 p.m. in New York. The equity benchmark has fallen 1.7 percent this week, the biggest decline since August. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 15.93 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,755.36 today. About 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 9 percent below the three-month average.

“Investors are a little tired after 12 months of the market,” John Manley, who helps oversee $233.6 billion as chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management in New York. “The budget accord is a plus right now, but there are more technical forces at work. People are looking for gains before year-end.”

Monetary Stimulus

The S&P 500 has surged 24 percent this year, putting it on course for the biggest annual gain since 2003, as the Fed continued to buy assets. Three rounds of monetary stimulus -- or quantitative easing -- from the central bank have helped propel the index to a 162 percent rally from a 12-year low in 2009.

The House passed a budget late yesterday that limits automatic spending cuts and avoids another government shutdown. The deal protects entitlement programs favored by the Democrats and corporate tax breaks that Republicans have demanded. Almost equal numbers of lawmakers from both political parties voted for the compromise. The Senate needs to approve the legislation and President Barack Obama has to sign it.

“Everyone’s just pleased that they got a budget deal done and that they were able to work out a compromise,” Dan McMahon, director of equity trading at Raymond James Financial Inc. in New York, said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of anticipation about the Fed meeting next week. There’s the potential that they could talk about some tapering, though I think it’s probably unlikely.”

Energy Stocks

Energy producers slid 0.4 percent, the most among 10 main groups in the S&P 500. West Texas Intermediate fell as much as 1.3 percent. Stockpiles of gasoline and distillate fuels, including diesel and heating oil, jumped the most last week since Jan. 4, the Energy Information Administration reported on Dec. 11.

Anadarko tumbled 6.4 percent to $78.30. The company and its Kerr-McGee unit acted improperly in the 2005 spinoff of Tronox and may have to pay as much as $14 billion related to environmental cleanup and health claims, a judge ruled.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P 500 options known as the VIX, climbed 1.4 percent to 15.76, its fourth day of gains. The benchmark has lost 13 percent this year.

The S&P 500 yesterday fell to its lowest level since Nov. 12 as a better-than-forecast retail-sales report fueled speculation that the Federal Reserve will decide to taper asset purchases as early as next week. Central-bank officials have watched Washington’s budget negotiations and scrutinized economic data to determine whether the recovery is sufficiently robust to slow their bond-buying program.

Fed Policy

Some 34 percent of economists predict that policy makers will decide to reduce the $85 billion of monthly asset purchases at the Dec. 17-18 meeting, according to a Bloomberg poll on Dec. 6. That compared with the 17 percent that forecast tapering at next week’s meeting in a Nov. 8 poll.

The S&P 500 may climb 17 percent to 2,075 by the end of next year as profit growth accelerates and U.S. monetary remains supportive, Thomas Lee, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief U.S. equity strategist, wrote in a research report today. Large technology companies provide the most attractive opportunity for outperformance, he said.

Adobe jumped 13 percent to a record $60.89. The company said yesterday that it signed up online customers at a faster-than-projected clip, adding to evidence the largest maker of graphic-design software is reducing its dependence on the slumping personal-computer market.

Texas Industries surged 14 percent to $66.47, the highest since October. The owners of the Dallas-based cement company are working with Citigroup Inc. to find a buyer, three people familiar with the matter said late yesterday. The business may attract Switzerland’s Holcim Ltd. and U.S. competitor Vulcan Materials Co., one of the people said.

Vulcan Materials, a maker of concrete and cement, climbed 3.2 percent to $56.13.

Electronic Arts Inc. increased 6 percent to $22.22. U.S. sales of video-game hardware jumped 58 percent in November from the prior year, NPD Group Ltd. said yesterday. Piper Jaffray Cos. analyst Michael Olson said titles such as Battlefield and Call of Duty have sold “reasonably well.”

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