- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks slid yesterday as waning enthusiasm among investors ahead of the holiday weekend overshadowed data showing higher consumer spending and a jump in sales of big-ticket goods in November. A weak bond market also weighed on stocks.

The pair of reports from the Commerce Department was welcome news for the economy. Coupled with a final push of takeover activity in the past few weeks, it showed resolute consumer and corporate confidence, even with questions about how much the economy is slowing.

The Federal Reserve is attempting to orchestrate a soft landing for the economy, reining it in while not interrupting corporate growth. Wall Street is trying to peg the Fed’s next move after it left rates unchanged the past four meetings.

Extremely light volume ahead of the Christmas holiday left the market prone to swings, however. Traders expect a light week after Monday, when markets are closed for Christmas.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 78.03, or 0.63 percent, to 12,343.22. Blue chips were backing off record levels seen earlier this week.

Broader stock indicators also dipped. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 7.54, or 0.53 percent, at 1,410.76, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 14.67, or 0.61 percent, to 2,401.18.

For the week, the Dow fell 0.82 percent, while the S&P; slipped 1.14 percent and the Nasdaq tumbled 2.28 percent.

Speculation that a weaker housing market and a slowing economy would give the Fed more leeway to cut interest rates next year caused bonds to fall. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.59 percent from 4.55 percent late Thursday, while the 30-year bond rose to 4.76 percent from 4.70 percent on Thursday.

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