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A volatile trading session ended with U.S. stocks mostly higher on Wednesday (December 5), even as Apple, the most valuable company in the United States, suffered its worst day of losses in almost four years.
In a strange occurrence, Apple accounted for the entirety of the Nasdaq 100's fall of 1.1 percent, while the Dow industrials - which do not include Apple as a component - enjoyed the best day since Nov. 23.
With the drop, Apple shed nearly $35 billion (USD) in market capitalization, its biggest one-day market-cap loss ever. The company's market value, or market capitalization, now stands at $506.85 billion (USD).
The broad market seesawed, with the S&P 500 dropping into negative territory before it rebounded off the 1,400 level, seen as a key support point over the past two weeks. Investors cited comments from President Barack Obama suggesting a potential near-term resolution to the "fiscal cliff" wrangling in Washington as a catalyst for the rebound.
Shares of The Travelers Cos Inc rose 4.9 percent to $74 (USD). The stock ranked as the Dow's top percentage gainer after the insurance company said it intended to resume stock buybacks it had temporarily suspended while it assessed its exposure to Superstorm Sandy. The company also said a preliminary estimate of net losses from Sandy was about $650 million (USD) after tax.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 82.71 points, or 0.64 percent, to 13,034.49 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 2.23 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,409.28. But the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 22.99 points, or 0.77 percent, to end at 2,973.70.
Apple, the largest U.S. company by market capitalization and a big weight in both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, fell 6.4 percent to $538.79 (USD). Apple is down more than 20 percent from an all-time high reached in late September, putting the stock into bear market territory.
Banking shares were led higher by a 6.3 percent jump in Citigroup to $36.46 (USD) after the company said it would cut 4 percent of its workforce. The S&P financial sector index climbed 1.3 percent, and Bank of America hit a 52-week high of $10.55 (USD) before pulling back slightly. The stock, a Dow component, ended at $10.46 (USD), up 5.7 percent for the day.
Still, Apple struggled throughout the session. Market participants cited a host of reasons for the drop in the iPad maker's stock, including a consultant's report about the company losing share in the tablet market and reports that margin requirements had been raised by at least one clearing firm, as well as year-end tax selling ahead of a possible rise in capital-gains tax rates next year.
About half of the stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed in positive territory, while about 54 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended lower.
Volume was higher than it has been in recent sessions, with about 6.93 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, above the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.