Stocks Drop, Dow Back Under 12,000

U.S. stocks tumbled on Thursday as investors fretted about the outcome of a European Union summit scheduled to conclude Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 11,997.70, off 198.67 points or 1.6%. The S&P 500 declined 26.66 points, or 2.1%, to 1,234.35. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 52.83 points, or 2%, to 2,596.38.

The number of people filing for state unemployment benefits for the first time fell 23,000 to the lowest level since late February, the government said Thursday. The Labor Department said claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 381,000 last week. The level of initial claims in the week ended Nov. 26 was revised up by 2,000 to 404,000.

Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F) restored its dividend for the first time in five years on Thursday, with a quarterly payout of 5 cents per share that the No. 2 U.S. automaker said it could maintain during any future downturn.

The housing market collapse, historically low interest rates and corporations stingy with dividends helped cut the median household income in two of every three U.S. counties, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. The number of American households that made money from rent, interest or dividends fell by one-third to 24.2 percent in 2010, including residents of counties that encompass New York City and San Francisco.

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