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Stocks started the day up, but then they grinded lower.First the scoreboard:

Dow: 13,114, -24.4, -0.1 per cent
S&P 500: 1,419, -6.8, -0.4 per cent
NASDAQ: 2,990, -22.4, -0.7 per cent

And now the top stories:

  • Some traders and investors came back to the stock market today after the Christmas holiday.  The only major story everyone missed was the ongoing slide of the Japanese yen and the rally in the Nikkei.  Incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continued to reiterate his position that the Bank of Japan should target a higher inflation rate.
  • According to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, holiday retail sales climbed by just 0.7 per cent, which was the weakest pace of growth since 2008 and it was well below expectations.  A VP from SpendingPulse was quick to blame the media: “The media coverage, which did a good job of explaining the negative consequences of the fiscal cliff, created this negative trend in consumer confidence and spending.”
  • Brian Sozzi of NBG Productions thinks that part of the blame goes to the retailers who decided to start Black Friday earlier than ever.  “Early store openings for Black Friday only shifted the holiday consumption pool, which was the opposite of the intended effect,” wrote Sozzi.  This likely caused the retailers to only incur higher costs because they had to pay employees for coming in early.
  • The Case-Shiller home price index came in stronger than expected. The 20-city index climbed 0.66 per cent in October, which was higher than the 0.48 per cent increase expected.  On a year-over-year basis, prices jumped 4.31 per cent.
  • Some cities, like Chicago and New York City, saw their home prices fall.  However, this is largely due to the manner in which various states handle their foreclosure processes, explained Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Michelle Meyer.  “States with a judicial [foreclosure] process, such as Florida, Illinois, and New York, are still struggling to clear the pipeline of distressed loans,” she said.  “As a result, home prices in the Chicago and New York metro areas have continued to edge lower.”
  • The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, which tracks activity along the central Atlantic region, was a bit disappointing.  It fell to 5 in December from 9 a month ago. “Looking at the broad indicators of activity, new orders were virtually unchanged, shipments grew more slowly, and employment declined,” wrote the Richmond Fed.
  • One big laggard today was Apple, which can be blamed for the Nasdaq and S&P 500 underperforming.
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