Nov. 29 - Summary of business headlines: Stocks end higher after volatile day as lawmakers go back-and-forth on fiscal cliff; retailers disappoint with November same-store sales; Tiffany, Barnes & Noble results add to worry; GDP revised up, housing sentiment hits six-year high. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Blue chips temporarily dipped below 13,000 as investment sentiment seems to teeter-totter on every word out of Congress regarding fiscal cliff discussions. At the end of the volatile sessions stocks ended with small gains. Retailers were in focus due to disappointing same-store sales for November. The main culprit? Super storm Sandy. Target says the last half of the month was better than the first half. And Macy's, with its flagship store in Sandy's path, said Black Friday weekend was the busiest ever, but not enough to offset the Sandy effect. But quarterly results from other retailers may be a reason for concern. Luxury shopkeeper Tiffany is lowering sales and profit forecasts for the third straight quarter following weaker-than-expected quarterly numbers. The blame: softness in Asia. Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble is taking a beating as it tries to compete with other tablets. It's Nook division posting a wider loss as the company ups promotional spending. Taking a look at retail stocks: Barnes & Noble tumbled 11 percent, Tiffany shed 6 percent, other losers include Kohl's, which shed 12 percent and Macy's, was down 4.3 percent. In the latest economic update, the U.S. economy grew at a faster pace in the third quarter than first announced, even though growth is still not as robust as Wall Street hoped. Exports were a bright spot but business spending dropped for the first time in more than a year and consumer spending was the weakest since the same time. Housing, a mostly bright spot for the economy this year, continues to be encouraging. Homebuilder sentiment jumped to a more than six-year high in November, according to an industry group. Turning to Europe now, equity markets rallied due in part to strength in the mining sector.