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Traders are feeling less than merry

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For the stock market, this week hasn’t been the most wonderful time of the year. Stocks fell for the third trading day in a row. Weak holiday sales weighed on retail companies, and the unwelcome ‘fiscal cliff’ package of higher taxes and lower government spending loomed. Plodding retail­ sales are a worry because consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of the US economy. When shoppers pull back on spending, that can take a chunk out of company earnings, which hurts the stock market. The bright spot: Home prices rose in most major cities in October, compared with a year earlier. But prices fell in many cities compared to September.

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