Stocks end little changed as Europe worries ease

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Stocks are closing largely unchanged as investors balance positive signs for the U.S. economy with a looming deadline for a key Congressional committee. Steep declines earlier in the week gave the S&P 500 its worst week since September.

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose more than analysts were expecting, a sign that the economy may pick up in the coming months. Investors remained cautious as Congress remains deadlocked on the U.S. deficit.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 25 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,796 Friday. The S&P 500 fell less than a point to 1,216. The Nasdaq lost 15, or 0.6 percent, to 2,573.

Four stocks rose for every three that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was light at 3.6 billion shares.