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US stocks lower amid Irish concern

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25 points, or 0.2%, to close at 11,179

US stocks ended narrowly lower amid anxiety over Europe’s financial crisis and a widening probe into insider trading on Wall Street.

Bank shares slumped after the FBI raided the offices of two hedge funds as part of a broad insider trading probe. Goldman Sachs Group sank 3.4%, while Bank of America fell 3.1%. Retail and consumer goods stocks rose on hopes that shoppers will be in a spending mood when they turn up in stores the day after Thanksgiving as the holiday shopping season gets under way.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24.97 points, 0.2%, to 11,178.58. The Dow was down as much as 149 points earlier.

Bank stocks were already under pressure because of concerns over how the bailout of Ireland would affect their investment portfolios and their ability to increase dividends.

Ireland formally asked for help from its neighbours on Sunday following weeks of pressure from the European Union.

While details of the package were still being worked out, Ireland’s government slipped further into crisis as a coalition partner of prime minister Brian Cowen threatened to abandon him.

It was the second time this year that the European Union has come to the rescue of one of the 16 countries that use the euro. In May, the EU and the IMF committed 140 billion dollars to Greece to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt.

Investors took heart from signs that the holiday shopping season is off to a good start. A widely watched gauge of spending, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, found apparel sales rose 9.7% in the first two weeks of November.

Online retailer Amazon’s shares were up 3.4%, and Apple rose 2.2%. Other technology shares also rose, pushing the Nasdaq composite index up 13.90, or 0.6%, to 2,532.02. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.89, or 0.2 %, to 1,197.84.

In another positive sign, computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard reported better than expected results and raised its profit forecast. Its stock was up 1.7% in after-hours trading.

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