Markets closed down today:
▼ Dow: -0.23 percent
▼ Nasdaq: -0.35 percent
▼ S&P: -0.16 percent
▼ Gold: -0.63 percent to $1,716.00 an ounce
▼Silver: -0.35 percent to settle at $32.62
▼ Oil: -0.88 percent
Markets were down because:
Stock indexes closed lower Thursday, a third straight decline, after U.S. retailers issued weak forecasts for earnings and more people filed claims for unemployment benefits.
Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, all fell after issuing forecasts that disappointed financial analysts. Wal-Mart fell $2.59, or 3.6 percent, to $68.72.
The Dow Jones industrial average wavered between small gains and losses shortly after the opening bell, then moved lower at midmorning. It closed down 28.57 points at 12,542.38.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 2.16 points to 1,353.33 and the Nasdaq composite finished 9.87 points lower at 2,836.94.
Stocks have fallen steadily since voters returned President Barack Obama and a divided Congress to power. The Dow has lost 5 percent from Election Day, Nov. 6.
Investors are worried that U.S. leaders may not reach a deal before tax increases and government spending cuts take effect Jan. 1. The impact would total $700 billion for 2013 and could send the country back into recession.
President Obama will meet with congressional leaders Friday to talk about the budget, but he appeared to suggest Thursday that he would insist on an increase in tax rates for the wealthy.
T. Dale, a portfolio manager at Security Ballew Wealth Management in Jackson, Miss., said that stocks are more likely to fall than rise, partly because of slowing global economic growth and the U.S. budget impasse.
In other news, the European Union's statistics agency confirmed that the euro zone, the group of 17 countries that use the euro currency, is in recession. The economy in the region shrank 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous three-month period.
Among the retailers disappointing Wall Street with lower earnings forecasts, Ross Stores, whose stores includes Ross Dress for Less, fell 70 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $54.44. Limited Brands dropped $1.10, or 2.4 percent, to $45.50.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 1.59 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.