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Stocks drop to one-month low on Fed bets after retail data

Fear that the Federal Reserve may start removing economic stimulus at the meeting next week caused investors to continue recent selling.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 104.10 points to 15,739.43. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 5.41 points to 3,998.40, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 6.72 points to 1,775.50.

Investors ignored a report from the Department of Commerce showing retail sales rose by 0.7 percent in November, suggesting a solid start to the holiday shopping season. Over the past 12 months, sales have increased 4.7 percent.

Gold fell sharply again on concerns the Fed may begin tapering at its two-day meeting next week. The metal declined $32.30 to $1,224.90 an ounce. Oil dipped 6 cents to $97.50 a barrel.

Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) dropped 2.8 percent to $33.60 after RBC Capital Markets LLC lowered its rating on the stock.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (Nasdaq: LULU) plunged 12 percent to $60.39 after projecting fourth-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates.

Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) rose 5 percent to $51.83 as S&P Dow Jones indices said it will join the S&P 500 next week.

About 6.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 3.3 percent above the three-month average.

Data showed retail sales rose more than forecast in November as Americans bought cars and took advantage of discounts going into the holiday-shopping season. A separate report indicated applications for unemployment benefits jumped last week from an almost three-month low.

Data last week showed the jobless rate fell to a five-year low and the economy expanded in the third quarter at a rate faster than initially estimated.

The Fed will probably start reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases at its Dec. 17 and 18 meeting, according to 34 percent of economists surveyed Dec. 6 by Bloomberg, up from 17 percent in a Nov. 8 poll.

The S&P 500 has surged 24 percent this year, poised for the best annual gain since 2003, as the Fed refrained from reducing its monthly bond purchases. Three rounds of monetary stimulus from the central bank have helped drive the equity index up more than 160 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.

The gauge has fallen 1.7 percent this month, leaving it on track for the first December decline since 2007. The final month of the year has been the second-best for U.S. equity returns, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that starts in 1928. The average gain for the month is 1.5 percent, more than twice the overall monthly mean of 0.6 percent.

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) slid 2.1 percent, the most since September, to $82.30.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) fell 1.8 percent to $20.51 for a fourth day of losses that left the stock at its lowest since May.

Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) dropped 6.9 percent to $21.31. The provider of fiber-optic networking gear for carriers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 16 cents, missing estimates of 24 cents.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HLT) rose to $21.50, 7.5 percent above its initial public offering price. The world’s biggest hotel operator raised $2.35 billion in a record IPO for a lodging company after selling about 117.6 million shares for $20 each, according to a statement yesterday.

Energy stocks rose 0.5 percent for the biggest gain in the S&P 500. Mexico will end 75 years of government control of its vast oil reserves after the nation’s lawmakers approved the most significant economic reform since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The bill will change Mexico’s charter to allow companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) to develop the largest unexplored crude area after the Arctic Circle.

Exxon, the biggest oil company by market value, increased 1.2 percent to $95.36 for the largest increase in the Dow.

Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) jumped 4.6 percent to $18.79, while Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) added 2 percent to $28.21. U.S. airlines won a repeal of $380 million in fees they pay for aviation security each year as part of a congressional budget agreement this week that raised related charges on their passengers.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) gained 0.4 percent to $56.31. The bank, which is the target of multiple U.S. Justice Department investigations, tentatively agreed to pay about $2 billion to resolve probes into whether it ignored warning signs about Bernard Madoff’s crimes, according to a person briefed on the matter.

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