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Stocks turn mixed entering late afternoon

Msnbc.com staff and wire report

Stocks fell away from their session highs to trade mixed Tuesday. The early gains were bolstered in part by a report showing that consumer confidence rebounded in November.

Previously consumer confidence was at a 2-1/2 year low. It was the highest level since July.

Stocks spiked for the day after the report was released just after 10 Eastern.

Strong retail sales over the Thanksgiving weekend reassured investors that the U.S. economy might be sputtering back to life, said Quincy Krosby, market strategist for Prudential Financial.

Entering the last two hours of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.21 percent, The S&P 500 was rose 0.13 and the Nasdaq was 0.73 lower. The S&P had been up 1.9 percent earlier in the day.

"Consumers appear to be entering the holiday season in better spirits, though overall readings remain historically weak," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. The center tracks the gauge.

Consumers' labor market assessment improved. The number of respondents that said they found "jobs hard to get" eased to 42.1 percent from 46.9 percent, while the "jobs plentiful" index rose to 5.8 percent from 3.6 percent.

Consumers also felt better about price increases with expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months falling to 5.5 percent from 5.8 percent.

Acting with new urgency, Europe's finance ministers were considering wide-ranging plans for protecting the region's financial system and shared currency from collapse. Many of those ideas would have been off-limits only recently, including having countries cede some control over their finances to a central European authority.

In the latest sign of trouble, Italy was forced to pay an excruciatingly high interest rate on an auction of three-year debt Tuesday. Demand was strong, but the 7.89 percent rate was nearly three percentage points higher than last month, an enormous increase.

The ease with which the auction was able to raise 7.49 billion euros ($10 billion) was a good sign, said Krosby. "But it's still worrisome that those yields are past the point which a week ago would have terrified global markets."

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.