NEW YORK -- Stocks finished about where they started Friday as investors balanced positive signs for the U.S. economy with a looming deadline for a deficit-cutting committee in Congress. Steep declines earlier in the week left the market with its worst weekly loss since September.
The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators rose more than Wall Street analysts were expecting, a sign that the economy might pick up in the coming months. But many investors were cautious as a key congressional committee remained deadlocked on ways to cut the U.S. budget deficit.
Telecommunications and technology stocks fell broadly.
McDonald's drops egg firm over cruelty report
CHICAGO -- McDonald's dropped an egg supplier Friday following reports of cruelty.
Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit devoted to animal welfare, produced a video alleging abuses at farms run by McDonald's egg supplier Sparboe in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado, depicting hens packed into industrial cages too small for them to spread their wings.
The video also shows dead fowl left to rot in cages with egg-laying hens, blood on eggs, beaks being burned off, chicks being crushed in workers' hands and birds being thrown away.
Beth Sparboe Schnell, president of Sparboe Farms, said in a statement that the acts depicted "are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers." She said a company investigation identified four people who were responsible. They have been fired.
UPS is raising prices for some deliveries Jan. 2
ATLANTA -- UPS said Friday it is raising rates for ground and air shipments Jan. 2 by 4.9 percent. The company typically announces rate increases in the fall for the next year.
The new rates apply to air and ground shipments within the U.S., as well as air shipments that originate in the U.S. and are headed overseas.
The company also is raising rates for next-day air freight and second-day air freight in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico by 5.9 percent on Jan. 2.
Researcher: New Kindle being sold at $2.70 loss
NEW YORK -- Amazon.com's Kindle Fire tablet, which started shipping this week, costs $201.70 to make, a research firm said Friday. That's $2.70 more than Amazon charges for the device.
The analysis by IHS indicates that Amazon is, at least initially, selling the tablet at a loss that it hopes to cover through sales of books and movies for the device. The manufacturing cost of a new gadget usually comes down over time as chips become cheaper.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in September that the company's goal was to make a small profit from the hardware, but as a retailer, Amazon was willing to live with a smaller margin than most electronics companies would.
Physician sentenced for role in trading scheme
NEW YORK -- A Harvard-trained physician was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for evading $30 million in investment losses by obtaining inside information from a fellow doctor. Joseph Skowron III, 42, of Greenwich, Conn., pleaded guilty in August.
Skowron admitted that he gained an advantage in his work as a hedge fund analyst to avoid millions of dollars in losses in 2007 and 2008. He said he used tips gained through conversations with a doctor who knew inside information about drug trials. The probe began after U.S. regulators spotted trading irregularities in the stock of a liver disease drugmaker.