Weak Wal-Mart sales weigh on jittery Wall St

US stocks were little changed yesterday as the prospect of a drawn-out battle over impending tax and spending changes made investors wary of getting into the water, while retailer Wal-Mart tumbled after disappointing sales.

The S&P 500 is down nearly two per cent for the week, adding to last week’s selloff and eroding more of the market's gains for the year.

The Eurozone relapsed into its second recession since 2009 in the third quarter as the region was hurt by its debt problems.

Wal-Mart fell 3.6 per cent to $68.72 and was the biggest drag on the Dow as frugal consumers hurt the company’s quarterly sales.

Investors will be watching today’s meeting at the White House between President Barack Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress over deficit reduction for any sign the two sides are moving closer.

The memory of last year’s political impasse over raising the debt ceiling has also made analysts nervous.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 28.49 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 12,542.46. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 2.16 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 1,353.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index was off 9.87 points, or 0.35 per cent, to 2,836.94.

The S&P 500 sunk to a 3 1/2-month closing low and was well below its 200-day moving average, which it pierced last week.

Apple shares dragged the Nasdaq lower, falling 2.1 per cent to $525.62 and down about 25 perc ent since September’s high.

Target bucked the trend, rising 1.7 percent to $62.44 after it reported a profit that beat expectations.

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