U.S. stocks closed little changed on Thursday as lawmakers prepared for budget talks and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. forecast earnings that missed estimates.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 28 points, or 0.23%, to 12,542. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost two points, or 0.16%, to 1,353. The Nasdaq Composite Index was off 10 points, or 0.35%, to 2,837.
Investors await today’s meeting at the White House between President Barack Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress over deficit reduction for any hint the two sides are moving closer.
Moreover, economic data on Thursday showed new claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week, while factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region unexpectedly contracted in November.
In Europe, the eurozone relapsed into its second recession since 2009 in the third quarter as the region was hurt by its debt problems.
Meanwhile, violence in the Middle East continued for a second day adding to market unease as Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza city.
Stocks declined led by Wal-Mart, which lost 3.6% and was the biggest drag on the Dow as frugal consumers hurt the company's quarterly sales.
In the technology sector, Apple Inc weighed on the Nasdaq, with its shares falling 2.1%. Dell fell in after-hours trading after it reported revenue that was shy of Wall Street's expectations. Dell was down 2.2%. Cisco Systems Inc. rose 1.6% for the second day of gains.
On the positive side, Target Corp jumped 1.7% in regular trading after it reported a profit that beat expectations. NetApp Inc. surged 11% as profit for the second quarter beat forecasts.
Dollar Tree rose 5.1% after the company reported third-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates.
In Asia, shares gained on Friday with Japanese consumer stocks rising amid speculation an election next month will hand power to an opposition party paving the way for more aggressive monetary easing.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.6% to 120 as of 10:57 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average extended yesterday’s surge, rising 1.5%. Japan’s broader Topix Index jumped 1.4%.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.2% and South Korea’s Kospi Index sank 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.2% and China’s Shanghai Composite slid 0.3%.