Stocks Closed Flat but Higher on Week

U.S. stocks ended little changed on Friday as investors took a step back from buying ahead of next week’s busy corporate earnings calendar.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 17.21 points, or 0.13%, to end at 13,488.43; for the week, it gained 0.4%. The S&P 500 index finished virtually unchanged at 1,472.05 compared to 1,472.12 in the previous session, which had marked a five-year closing high. For the week, the index rose 0.4%. The Nasdaq Composite index climbed 3.87 points, or 0.12%, to end at 3,125.63, posting a weekly rise of 0.8%.

The U.S. government ran a budget deficit of $260 million in December, the Treasury Department said Friday, the best showing for the finalmonth in five years. In December, the government took in $269.5 billion, an increase of about 12% compared to December 2011. A 15% increase in individual withheld taxes helped contribute to the higher monthly receipts.

A steadily improving economy and strong December sales lifted the American auto industry to its best performance in five years in 2012, especially for Volkswagen and Japanese-brand vehicles, and experts say the next year should be even better. Carmakers announced on January 3 their final figures, which totaled 14.5 million — 13 percent better than 2011.

Shares of Research In Motion rallied on Friday as investors positioned themselves ahead of the launch of its new make-or-break BlackBerry 10 smartphones at the end of the month.

A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that Netflix Inc received an unfair advantage from the U.S. Postal Service’s special handling of its DVDs, and ordered postal regulators to remedy the discrimination or offer a good explanation.

Shell may have moved an oil rig that ran aground off Alaska last week partly to avoid millions of dollars in taxes, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey said, raising even more questions about the oil company’s decision on the timing of the move.

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