Stocks Ended Lower on Sandy Data, Cliff Woes

U.S. stocks finished lower on Thursday, pressured by economic data following superstorm Sandy and the looming fiscal cliff. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 28.57 points, or 0.23%, at 12,542.46, and the S&P 500 Index fell 2.16 points, or 0.16%, to close at 1,353.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 9.87 points, or 0.35%, to close at 2,836.94.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that banks’ overly tight lending standards may be holding back the U.S. economy by preventing creditworthy borrowers from buying homes.

BP said Thursday that it will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress.

Dell Inc. said Thursday that earnings slid by 47% in its third fiscal quarter, as PC sales plunged and many of its other business units showed weakness as well. For the quarter ended Nov. 2, Dell reported net income of $475 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with net income of $893 million, or 49 cents a share, for the same period last year. Revenue fell nearly 11% to $13.7 billion.

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