Recession Fears Slam Stocks

News that U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly contracted in November sent stocks sprawling on Friday, but they fought back to close well off their lows.

The national ISM index fell to 49.5 last month, well below expectations and the lowest reading since April 2003. Readings below 50 indicate contraction.

The news followed Thursday’s report that Midwest manufacturing had begun to contract, but that was dismissed as being due to weakness in the auto industry. Friday’s national ISM number confirmed a broader slowdown.

Despite the worrisome news, stocks managed to regain much of their losses by the close. The Dow finished more than 100 points off its low.

Technology stocks fared worse, losing 0.8%.

One bright spot was the new Alcatel-Lucent , which gained 0.6% in its first day of trading.

EnPointe shares soared 102% after the company reversed a year-ago loss and reported a big profit.

AMD and Nvidia fell on antitrust investigations.

Finisar , McData and Omnivision fell on their results.

Novellus gained ahead of its mid-quarter update on Monday.

The Nasdaq fell 18 to 2413, the S&P 500 lost 4 to 1396, and the Dow lost 28 to 12,194. Volume declined to 2.71 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.05 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 17-15 on the NYSE, and 18-11 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 60% on the NYSE, and 73% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 301-14 on the NYSE, and 103-49 on the Nasdaq.

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