NEW YORK -- Stocks closed lower Wednesday after Europe's central bank disclosed figures suggesting that banks in the region were becoming increasingly reluctant to lend to each other. The S&P 500 is now negative for the year again, after barely turning positive Friday.

The European Central Bank said the continent's banks parked $590.72 billion with it overnight, surpassing a record set Monday. That means those banks were less willing to risk making short-term loans to each other, opting instead to earn low interest.

Trading was very thin in a holiday-shortened week.

--The Dow Jones industrial average fell 139.94, or 1.1 percent, to 12,151.41.

--The S&P 500 fell 15.79, or 1.3 percent, to 1,249.64.

--The Nasdaq composite declined 35.22, or 1.3 percent, to 2,589.98.

Report: A late surge in holiday buying lifted sales

NEW YORK --The holiday shopping season turned out to be two seasons split by a big lull. A surge in buying in the two weeks before Christmas, coupled with a record-breaking Black Friday, gave retailers a solid season. The doldrums between the buying binges show how shoppers have learned to wait for the discounts they know will come.

For Dec. 1-24, spending rose 4.7 percent compared with the same period last year, according to ShopperTrak. In November, it rose 4.1 percent. A 4 percent gain is considered a successful season. A combined figure for the whole season won't be available until after Dec. 31.

In the week before Christmas, last-minute shoppers gave retailers a 4.5 percent increase in revenue at stores open at least a year compared to the same week last year, said the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index.

Hawker Beechcraft sues over contract exclusion

WICHITA, Kan. -- Hawker Beechcraft Corp. is suing the U.S. government because it was excluded from competing for a light-attack aircraft contract worth nearly $1 billion.

The company filed the lawsuit Tuesday with the Court of Federal Claims, seeking to prevent the government from awarding a contract until Beechcraft can make its case in court.

Hawker Beechcraft had hoped its AT-6 would be considered. CEO Bill Boisture said he doesn't know why the company was excluded.

Foreign visitors spending record amounts in U.S.

LOS ANGELES -- International tourists continue to spend record amounts in the U.S. and are on pace to top the previous annual high mark in tourist expenditures set in 2008, according to new data from the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

A monthly report by the federal agency said international visitors spent $13.1 billion on travel to the U.S. and tourism-related activities while here in October, a 13 percent increase over the same month last year.

About $10 billion of that was spent on hotels, food, souvenirs and other expenses after visitors arrived. Foreign visitors spent $127 billion in the U. S. in the first 10 months of 2011.