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Friday, January 13, 2012

US Stocks stuck in neutral (ext)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Stocks sputtered Thursday, but managed to close the day slightly higher.

Investors grew concerned about the health of the U.S. economy following the release of weak reports on retail sales and initial jobless claims.

Those numbers dampened investors' enthusiasm over surprisingly successful bond auctions conducted by Spain and Italy Thursday morning, the first of 2012.

Major indexes hovered around the breakeven line for most of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed up 22 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 (SPX) gained 3 points, or 0.2%. The Nasdaq (COMP) moved up 14 points, or 0.5%.

The mix of positive news from Europe and lackluster performance of the U.S. economy is an inversion of what's been driving markets for the past several months. Investors have mostly been digesting better-than-expected U.S. economic reports while seeing reasons to fear Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

"The news today is almost a wash," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "Overall, we're encouraged that we've had a good start to the year. We're not giving back those gains."

The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound, but rose versus the Japanese yen.

Oil for February delivery lost $1.73 to $99.14 a barrel.

Gold futures for February delivery gained $8.10 to $1,647.70 an ounce.

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