Stocks Edge Down, Wells Fargo in Focus

U.S. stocks opened slightly lower on Friday as record earnings from Wells Fargo failed to inspire further buying. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately dropped 26.05 points, or 0.19%, to 13,445.17. The S&P 500 index slipped 3.58 points, or 0.24%, to 1,468.54. The Nasdaq Composite index declined 2.96 points to 3,118.80.

Wells Fargo & Co. reported Friday that increased lending helped profits rise 24 percent in the fourth quarter. For the year, Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) had profits of $18.9 billion, or $3.36 per share, up 19 percent from $15.9 billion, or $2.82 per share in 2011. Full-year revenue climbed 6 percent to $86.1 billion.

Trade deficit unexpectedly widened in November, a drag on economic growth, although the increase was driven by a surge in consumer goods imports, which gives a positive signal for consumer spending. America’s trade deficit widened 16 percent in November to $48.7 billion, the Commerce Department said.

Best Buy Co Inc (BBY) on Friday showed a bit of a turnaround in its U.S. stores, with flat same-store sales during the key holiday season, but slashed its expectations for free cash flow after it had to pay for some inventory earlier than expected. Best Buy’s total revenue slipped 0.4 percent to $12.8 billion in the nine weeks ended January 5, while sales at stores open at least 14 months declined 1.4 percent, versus a 0.4 percent decline in the 2011 holiday period. Same-store sales were flat in the United States and fell 6.4 percent internationally on declines in Canada and China.

A U.S. regulatory probe of JP Morgan Chase & Co is expected to result in an order that the bank correct lapses in how it polices suspect money flows, in an action expected as soon as Friday, people familiar with the situation said.

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