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Stocks end with minor loss

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch –

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks closed with minor losses Monday as telecommunications and technology stocks advanced, offsetting concern that came with Portugal’s soaring borrowing costs.

After a 131-point drop, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 6.74 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 12,653.72. Of its 30 components, about half lost ground, led by a 3 percent drop in Bank of America Corp. shares.

More than 1 percent gains in Microsoft Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. led advancers.

“Investors had started putting Europe on the back burner, but now we have a meeting today over there and sovereign bond yields rose overnight in Europe, so the market is paying a lot of attention to Europe today, but is taking it pretty well,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.

The S&P 500 index declined 3.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,313.01, with the financial sector hit the hardest after a report that Germany wanted Greece to relinquish control of its budget process in exchange for another rescue package.

“The failing of Greek debt restructuring talks at this late hour would be a disappointment,” said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group.

The discord came as European Union leaders met Monday in Brussels for their first summit of the year to finalize a deficit-reduction agreement and support the setting up of a rescue fund. Towards the close of the trading day, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the permanent rescue fund had been approved.

At the session’s start, a surge in borrowing costs for Portugal raised fears that the country would have to follow Greece in writing down the value of its debts.

Portugal’s 2-year yield surged 360 basis points to 20.78 percent and the 10-year yield gained 190 basis points to 17.14 percent, according to Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak.

“At this rate, Portugal is going to move from the back to front burner in very, very short order,” offered Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG LLC. As a sector, technology shares advanced, boosted in part by

After falling 34 points, the Nasdaq composite closed off 4.61 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,811.94.

Apple Inc., the largest global stock by market cap in the world, helped stem the Nasdaq slide as it rallied 1.3 percent to $453.01.

“The ‘buy the dip’ crowd is alive and well, but today they focused on the Nasdaq,” said Elliot Spar, a strategist at Stifel Nicolaus.

Crude-oil futures for March delivery lost 78 cents to end at $98.78 a barrel.

The Commerce Department reported U.S. consumer spending came to a virtual standstill in December after climbing 0.1 percent the month before.

Mergers buoyed some small-cap shares.

Shares of Pep Boys — Manny, Moe and Jack leapt 24 percent after the automotive services and retail chain agreed to be acquired by Gores Group for $791 million.

Thomas & Betts Corp. surged 23 percent as Swiss engineering conglomerate ABB Ltd. said it would buy the electrical-components maker for $3.9 billion.

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