Market Wrap: A Muddled Start for the New Year

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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed little changed on Friday in the first trading session of 2015, finishing well off session highs as economic data short-circuited early gains.

In a sign of tepid economic conditions, construction spending unexpectedly fell 0.3 percent in November, while the pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slipped to a six-month low in December, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

"The data we got out today basically dampened early enthusiasm," said Peter Cardillo, chief marketeconomist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. "It's just a little bit of softness but I don't think it changes the outlook for a stronger economy."

Markets had opened higher in a broad rally, but indexes later lost ground. Volume was light in the wake of the New Year's holiday, which often exacerbates market volatility. About 5.29 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 6.87 billion average last month, according to BATS Global Markets. For the week, the Dow (^DJI) closed down 1.2 percent, the S&P 500 (^GPSC)off 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq off 1.7 percent.

Energy Shares Up; Oil Prices Down

Energy shares gained 0.4 percent, alternating between gains and losses alongside choppy trading in crude oil. Exxon Mobil (XOM) rose 0.4 percent to $92.83, and Kinder Morgan (KMP) gained 1.2 percent to $42.81 to lead the sector higher. U.S. crude settled down 58 cents at $52.69 for its 13th negative week out of the past 14, and is at levels not seen since 2009. Brent crude settled down 91 cents at $56.42 a barrel.

General Motors (GM) shed 0.2 percent to $34.84 after the automaker announced three new vehicle recalls, the biggest involving the ignition-switch design of several SUV and pickup truck models.

Weight Watchers International (WTW) fell more than 13 percent on Friday, continuing a string of losses as the company tries to boost sales, which in October hit a four-year low. The stock has lost almost a quarter of its value in the last eight trading sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.92 points, or 0.06 percent, to 17,832.99, the S&P 500 lost 0.7 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,058.2 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.24 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,726.81. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE 1,696 to 1,376, for a 1.23-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,555 issues fell and 1,185 advanced for a 1.31-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 9 new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) recorded 60 new highs and 24 new lows.

Euro Slips

The euro slipped to its lowest against the dollar in 4½ years, to $1.2003. The decline came after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicated that the bank could support a government bond-buying program to combat alarmingly low inflation in the eurozone.

Investors have a number of concerns about Europe as 2015 begins. Growth is anemic in the region and an election in Greece on Jan. 25 could re-ignite the country's debt crisis if an anti-austerity party wins.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

9 Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste
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Market Wrap: A Muddled Start for the New Year
Keep your shelves organized so you can see everything you have. Clearly mark any perishable items with their expiration dates and label leftovers with the date you packaged them. If that sounds like too much work, try this: Only buy enough perishables to last for one week of consumption, and label your pantry shelves based on expiration dates (one month, six months, etc.)
Keep newer items in the back of the fridge so that when you reach in to grab a snack or peruse the shelf for meal ideas, you're more likely to use the items that will expire the soonest. Do the same with your pantry (especially canned goods) and items in the freezer.
Keep those leftovers fresher for longer by making sure you package them the right way. Items that can go stale (like chips and cereal) should be stored in airtight containers. Don't pack your fridge too full, as this reduces cool air flow. Know the best way to freeze different items. For some handy food storage charts, check out
You won't get sick of leftovers if you find different ways of preparing them. Create salads, soups, wraps and omelets when you're looking for ways to make use of ingredients that seem somewhat random. Experiment, and throw different ingredients together while you're cooking. You may just come up with your next favorite recipe.
Sit down on Sunday and draw up a plan for your meals throughout the week, making sure to use any ingredients that are due to expire soon. Planning out your meals helps you make the best use of the items you have -- and cuts back on that "What on earth am I going to make tonight?" panic.
You can freeze a lot more than you probably think you can. Milk, bread, cheese and other items can be safely and successfully frozen if you don't think you'll be able to finish them before they expire. (Or if you buy multiples on sale.) Leftovers can be frozen for instant microwavable meals when you're busy.
Some expired food can still be used as ingredients. Overripe bananas can be made into banana bread; stale bread is great for homemade croutons; slightly mushy produce can always be tossed into a smoothie.
The "use by" date on most items doesn't mean they're unsafe to eat after that time; it simply means that's the date the USDA recommends you consume them by to enjoy peak quality and freshness. Most foods will still be fresh and safe to consume for several days after this date. When in doubt, use your senses -- if it looks alright, smells and tastes OK, it's probably OK.
Make use of small scraps, spoiled foods and unusable bits by turning them into compost. If you use this to fertilize your own kitchen garden, you'll be able to save even more on groceries by growing your own fresh produce.
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