For the second day in a row, stocks faltered despite -- or rather, because of -- some really upbeat economic news. The Commerce Department said that U.S. GDP grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate in the third quarter, revising that number upward from an earlier estimate of 2.8 percent. That's a big jump in terms of how these things usually go. And a second report showed a big drop in first time jobless claims.
So, concern is popping up once again that the Fed will begin tapering its stimulus program sooner than previously thought. As a result, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 68 points -- its fifth straight loss. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dropped 8 points, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) lost 5.
Shares of Microsoft (MSFT) fell 2.5 percent while Ford (F) gained nearly 1 percent after Bloomberg reported that Alan Mulally said he will stay on as CEO at Ford through 2014. He had been considered the top candidate to succeed Steve Ballmer as head of Microsoft. Ballmer plans to retire next summer. Mulally is regarded as one of the nation's most respected business executives.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Retail stocks had another rough day. Walmart (WMT) fell 1 percent and J.C. Penney (JCP) fell 8 percent after a big investor sold his stake in the company. Costco (COST) lost 1.5 percent after posting disappointing sales for last month, hurt by falling gas prices and a drop in sales of consumer electronics. And teen apparel retailer Wet Seal (WTSL) got soaked with 14 percent drop as its losses widened and it issued a weak holiday sales forecast.
But there were some gainers on retail row. Dollar General (DG) rose 6 percent on better than expected earnings. It says the average shopper is spending more per visit. And Conn's (CONN) surged 19 percent. It posted a big sales gain and upped its earnings estimate for the year.
Elsewhere, Apple (AAPL) added nearly 1 percent after reportedly finalizing its deal for China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile telecom company, to sell iPhones in China.
Puma Biotech (PBYI) soared 68 percent on positive test results for its breast cancer drug.
But Electronic Arts (EA) fell 6 percent because of ongoing problems with its "Battlefield 4" video game, one of the company's most valuable franchises. As a result, EA is halting some other projects.
What to Watch Friday:
Retailers American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) and Big Lots (BIG) report quarterly corporate earnings before markets open in New York.
At 8:30 a.m., the Labor Department reports November jobs data, and the Commerce Department releases personal income and outlays for October.
The University of Michigan releases its initial survey of consumer sentiment for December at 10 a.m.
The Federal Reserve reports on Americans' use of consumer credit for October at 3 p.m.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.