* House to meet Sunday; Senate leader doesn't see deal
* Consumer confidence hits four-month low on cliff fears
* Expedia leads S&P 500's gainers, stock doubles in 2012
* Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all slip 0.1 percent
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 27 U.S. stocks fell for a fourth
day on Thursday, but recovered most of their losses after the
House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said
it would come back to work on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" this
It was a jittery session for stocks, with shares falling
more than 1 percent after Senate Majority Harry Reid warned a
deal was unlikely before the deadline, only to rebound merely on
the news that the House would reconvene Sunday, a day before the
Dec. 31 "cliff" deadline.
"There's no conviction in the move or the overall market,
based on the across-the-board reduction we've seen in volume ...
but there will be continued weakness until there's sustained
positive direction coming from our leaders," said Joseph
Cangemi, managing director at ConvergEx Group, in New York.
The market has been prone to quick reactions to headlines
and those moves have sometimes seemed more dramatic because of
reduced trading volume. About 5.12 billion shares changed hands
on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT,
well below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48
Investors are looking for any hint that lawmakers will avert
the $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts that will start
to take effect next week and could push the U.S. economy into
"Markets turned around in a heartbeat, as the House session
is the first announcement of anything getting done," said Randy
Bateman, chief investment officer of Huntington Asset
Management, in Columbus, Ohio, which oversees $14.5 billion in
assets. "I'm not convinced it will result in a deal, but you
could get enough concessions by both parties to at least avoid
the immediacy of going over the cliff."
In a sign of the anxiety, the CBOE Volatility Index,
or VIX, rose above 20 for the first time since July, suggesting
rising worries, but ended up finishing the day down 0.4 percent
as the stock market rebounded.
Stocks in the materials and the financial sectors, which are
more vulnerable to the economy's performance, bore the brunt of
the selling before recovering. Shares of Bank of America
fell 0.6 percent to $11.47 while Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
fell 0.7 percent to $33.68.
Some of 2012's biggest gainers bucked the broader trend and
rallied, a sign of year-end "window dressing." Expedia Inc
was the S&P 500's top percentage gainer, climbing 4.1
percent to $60.30. The price of the online travel agency's stock
has doubled this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 18.28
points, or 0.14 percent, to 13,096.31 at the close. The Standard
& Poor's 500 Index declined 1.74 points, or 0.12 percent,
to 1,418.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 4.25
points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 2,985.91.
Marvell Technology Group fell 3.5 percent to $7.14
after it said it would seek to overturn a jury's finding of
patent infringement. The stock had fallen more than 10 percent
in the previous session after a jury found the company infringed
on patents held by Carnegie Mellon University and ordered the
chipmaker to pay $1.17 billion in damages.
The four-day decline marked the S&P 500's longest losing
streak in three months. The index has lost 1.8 percent over the
period as investors grapple with the possibility that a deal may
not be reached until next year.
President Barack Obama arrived back in Washington from
Hawaii to restart stalled negotiations with Congress. House
Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders were to hold a
conference call with Republican lawmakers. The expectation was
that lawmakers would be told to get back to Washington quickly
if the Senate passed a bill.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the first of a
series of measures that should push back the date when the U.S.
government will hit its legal borrowing authority - a limit
known as the debt ceiling - by about two months.
Economic data seemed to confirm worries about the impact of
the fiscal cliff on the economy.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of
consumer confidence in December fell to 65.1 as the budget
crisis dented growing optimism about the economy. The gauge fell
more than expected from 71.5 in November.
However, the job market continues to mend. Initial claims
for unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally
adjusted 350,000 last week and the four-week moving average fell
to the lowest since March 2008.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock
Exchange by a ratio of about 8 to 7, while on the Nasdaq, about
14 stocks fell for every 11 that rose.