(MENAFN - ProactiveInvestors - N.America) US markets rose slightly around noon on Friday, as President Obama and leaders from both parties called the White House meeting on how to avoid the looming fiscal cliff "constructive".
The Dow was lately up 25 points to 12,567, the Nasdaq rose 3 points to 2,841, and the S&P 500 went up 4 points to 1,357.
Without action by the White House and Congress on the fiscal cliff, about 500 billion in spending cuts and tax increases are set to begin next year.
Obama, as well as leaders from both parties, reportedly called the discussions "constructive", as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said they should aim to avert the problem by Christmas, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner both said Republicans were willing to put revenue on the table to reach a deal.
Media outlets have also reported that leaders are in talks to replace the massive spending cuts known as the "sequester" with a smaller package of cuts and tax hikes.
In corporate news, privately-held Hostess Brands, maker of iconic Twinkie snack cakes, filed for bankruptcy Friday, weighed down by 1 billion debt and 2 billion of unfunded pension liabilities.
Computer-maker Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) said late Thursday that earnings fell 47% in its third quarter amid plunging PC sales and weakness in other business units. Revenue fell nearly 11% to 13.7 billion. The company maintained its full-year earnings outlook, but results for the quarter were slightly below Wall Street's already-low consensus.
Shares were down more than 7% on Friday.
Clothing retailer Gap (NYSE:GPS) said it expects fiscal 2012 earnings to come in between 2.20 to 2.25 a share, up from its previous forecast of 1.95 to 2. The company also said third-quarter profit surged 60%, while same-store sales at Gap North America rose.
Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) posted a loss of 1.99 per share for its third quarter, a smaller loss than analysts had expected. Same-store sales fell 1.6% at Sears and 4.8% at Kmart. The retailer is, however, seeing improved results for areas like appliances and apparel.
The J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE:SJM) Friday said second-quarter profits jumped 17 per cent, as revenues grew on its Sara Lee acquisition.
The company also raised its full-year, per share guidance to 5.12 to 5.22, from its previous estimate of 5.00 to 5.10, and said it expects net sales to increase about seven per cent to about 5.92 billion.
However, shares of Smucker were down over 2% as guidance missed analysts' full-year expectations of 5.19 per share on revenue of 5.95 billion.
U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser (LON:RB) said it will begin a 42-per-share cash tender offer for Schiff Nutrition (NYSE:SHF) , valuing the supplier of branded vitamins, nutrition supplements and nutrition bars at about 1.4 billion.
The offer is conditioned on Reckitt Benckiser's ability to complete what it called "limited confirmatory due diligence". If granted this condition, the suitor said it was "confident" that it can close the tender offer before the end of calendar year 2012.
In late October, Schiff entered into a 34-per-share merger agreement with Bayer HealthCare LLC.
Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) will split into two separate publicly traded companies, a gaming-based real estate investment trust, and a gaming operator.
Nike (NYSE:NKE) late Thursday approved a 2-for-1 stock split on both its Class A and Class B common shares, payable in the form of a 100% stock dividend on December 24 to stockholders of record as of December 10.
The board also declared a post-split quarterly cash dividend of 21 cents per share, marking the 11th straight year in which Nike has hiked its dividend. This new dividend, payable December 26, equates to a 17% increase.
On the economic front, industrial production fell 0.4% in October, disappointing traders, as Hurricane Sandy reduced total output by nearly 1%, the central bank said. Wall Street's expectations were for a 0.2% increase.
Gold for December was near flat Friday at 1,714 an ounce, while crude for December delivery was up 1.12 to 86.54.
European markets finished sharply lower today with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX fell 1.32% while Britain's FTSE 100 was off 1.27% and France's CAC 40 was lower by 1.21%.