U.S. stocks fell today as signs of life in the job market were overshadowed by Washington’s wrangling over the fiscal cliff.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group fell 0.2 percent, or 1.30 points, to 655.35, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6 percent, or 74.73 points, to 13,170.72.

The retail index was saved from most of the market’s decline by Best Buy Co., which shot up 15.9 percent to $14.12 on a report that the company’s founder would offer to take it private.

Fashion’s decliners included Under Armour Inc., down 4.2 percent to $48.46; The Men’s Wearhouse Inc., 2.9 percent to $30.37; Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc., 2.3 percent to $12.41; Oxford Industries Inc., 2.3 percent to $45.93, and Nike Inc., 1.9 percent to $97.33.

The day’s economic news was relatively positive, although sales last month were somewhat disappointing.

The Labor Department’s reading of initial jobless claims last week fell by 29,000 to 343,000, better than the 370,000 new claims projected. And the Commerce Department said November retail sales rose 0.3 percent versus October, slightly below the 0.4 percent economists projected.

But Investors are more interested in how the White House and Congress will avoid the fiscal cliff — a slate of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in next month and could spark a new recession.

In Europe, most stock markets lost ground for the day.

The DAX in Frankfurt fell 0.4 percent to 7,581.98 as the FTSE 100 in London sank 0.3 percent to 5,929.61 and the CAC 40 in Paris declined 0.1 percent to 3,643.13.

The FTSE MIB in Milan bucked the trend and climbed 0.6 percent to 15,866.29.

Among those declining were Burberry Group, down 2.6 percent to 12.62 pounds; Mulberry Group, 2.1 percent to 11.70 pounds; the Swatch Group, fell 2 percent to 76.80 Swiss francs; Yoox, 1.9 percent to 11.37 euros, and Beiersdorf, 1.7 percent to 61.42 euros.

The pound traded at $1.61 versus the dollar, while the euro traded at $1.30 and the Swiss franc traded at $1.07.

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