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The close: No budget progress, no stock gains Add to ...

North American stocks ended flat on Friday amid little movement in Washington to agree on a budget before the fiscal cliff approaches at the end of the year.

The S&P 500 closed at 1416.18, up 0.23 point or nearly zero per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,025.58, up 3.76 points or almost zero per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,239.36, up 36.51 points or 0.3 per cent.

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Congressional Republicans rejected the Obama administration’s budget proposal of $1.6-trillion in tax increases, even as the President hit the road to sell it to Americans. Republican House speaker John Boehner said talks were at a “stalemate.”

Politicians have been in talks for some time in an effort to avoid the looming fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts should they not reach a budget agreement by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer spending fell 0.2 per cent in October, worse than the flat reading expected by economists. However, the dip was attributed to effects from Hurricane Sandy, which walloped the east coast in October.

Yum Brands Inc. fell 9.9 per cent after the restaurant company said that sales in Chinese stores open for at least a year would fall 4 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared to sales growth of 21 per cent last year. McDonald’s Corp., which also has big operations in China, rose 0.6 per cent.

The disappointment follows Tiffany & Co.’s sharp decline on Thursday after it lowered its profit and sales forecast, pointing to Asia as the cause. On Friday, the shares fell another 1.4 per cent.

Key commodities were mixed. Crude oil rose to $88.91 (U.S.) a barrel, up 84 cents. Gold fell to $1,710.90 an ounce, down $16.30. Suncor Energy Inc. fell 1.2 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.4 per cent.

 

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