Wall Street’s rally halts over economic fears

THE S&P 500 ended its six-day winning streak yesterday, retreating as worries intensified that Washington's “fiscal cliff” negotiations were dragging on with little progress.

Anxiety about the drawn-out talks between Democrats and Republicans was enough to offset encouraging data on retail sales and jobless claims .

There is concern that tax hikes and spending cuts, set to begin in 2013 if a deal is not reached in Washington, will hurt growth. The stock market has taken the heated rhetoric in stride of late, but downbeat remarks from Republican House Speaker John Boehner prompted some selling on Thursday.

After coming close to a one per cent decline for the day, the S&P 500 pared losses late in the session. The index had posted six straight sessions of gains through Wednesday’s close, and at one point on Wednesday, the S&P touched its highest intraday level since 22 October.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 9.03 points, or 0.63 per cent, to close at 1,419.45. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 74.73 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 13,170.72 at the close. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 21.65 points, or 0.72 per cent, to end at 2,992.16.

Apple's stock, down 1.7 per cent at $529.69, was among the biggest drags on the Nasdaq, while International Business Machines, down 0.5 per cent at $191.99, was among the biggest weights on the Dow.

A US jury found that Apple's iPhone infringed three patents owned by MobileMedia Ideas.