Closing Bell Report

A drop in December retail sales sparked fears of a recession sending the markets tumbling to a sharply lower close with the Dow plummeting 277 points to 12,501. Nasdaq skidded 61 points to 2418.

On the upside

An affiliate of private equity firm Thoma Cressey Bravo offered $66 million to acquire software company Manatron (Nasdaq: MANA).

Vignette (Nasdaq: VIGN) expects fourth quarter revenue to surpass estimates.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) initiated merger discussions with Northwest Airlines (NYSE: NWA) and UAL (NYSE: UAUA).

On the downside

Hibbett Sports (Nasdaq: HIBB) blamed a weak economy for lowering its fourth quarter guidance.

Fair Isaac (NYSE: FIC) slashed its full year earnings outlook and revenue forecast citing the ailing home mortgage industry.

New York & Co. (NYSE: NWY) cut its fourth quarter earnings outlook due to disappointing same store sales.

In the broad market, declining issues outpaced advancers by a margin of more than 3 to 1 on both the NYSE and on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks plunged 15 points to 697.

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