Stocks performed poorly today:
▼ Dow: -0.33 percent
▲ Nasdaq: +0.33 percent
▼ S&P: -0.20 percent
▼ Gold: -0.11 percent to $1,751.83 an ounce
▲ Silver: +0.12 percent to settle at $34.11
▼ Oil: -0.40 percent
Markets were down because:
Wall Street came back to work after the Thanksgiving weekend and faced leftover worries about the "fiscal cliff" and the European debt crisis. Stocks retreated after one of their best weeks of the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.31 points to 12,967.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 2.86 to 1,406.29. And the Nasdaq composite index managed a 9.93-point increase to 2,976.78.
Utility stocks rose the most, while telecommunications companies fell the most.
The major U.S. economic reports were not due until later in the week, leaving investors to rehash the European debt crisis and talks in Washington over the "cliff" of tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1.
The National Retail Federation reported that 247 million shoppers visited stores and shopping websites during the long Thanksgiving weekend, up 9 percent from a year ago. They spent an average of $423, up 6 percent.
Some worry that the momentum won't last, and that deep discounting will hurt stores. Macy's fell $1.87, or 4.5 percent, to $39.86. Saks dropped 29 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $10.23. Target declined $1.71, or 2.6 percent ,to $62.77.
Abercrombie & Fitch was an exception, rising 21 cents to $44.61.
The cliff cast a pall. A government report released Monday warned that a sudden increase in taxes would crimp the spending of middle class families next year, and some analysts wondered whether families would curb spending before the year is over.
The report, by President Barack Obama's National Economic Council and his Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that a married couple earning between $50,000 and $85,000 with two children would see a $2,200 increase in their taxes.
In Europe, leaders of European Union countries tried to reach a deal to lend more money to debt-crippled Greece. The ministers have failed twice in the last two weeks to reach an agreement to release €44 billion, or $56.8 billion.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 2 percentage points to 1.66 percent from late Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.