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Stocks slip slightly on 2011's last trading day

With little to trade on, thinly staffed trading floors and exhaustion after a wild 2011, Wall Street investors let stocks sink under the weight of end-of-year malaise Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15 points just before midday. The S&P 500, which is up just 0.3 percent for 2011, was down less than a point. The Nasdaq fell almost a half point. It was that kind of day. 

McDonald's Corp. is shaping up to be the biggest winner in the Dow Jones industrial average this year with a gain of 31 percent. Bank of America Corp. was the worst performing stock in the Dow, down 59 percent.

For the year, utilities stocks rose the most of the ten sectors in the S&P 500. They were up 16 percent. Other winning groups were consumer staples and health care companies, both up 11 percent in 2011.

In Europe, many of the biggest markets ended down in 2011.

There were no major economic reports scheduled for Friday. Trading has been quiet this week with many investors away on vacation. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange has been about half of its daily average.

Better news on the job market and home sales lifted stocks Thursday, pushing the Dow up 135 points. On Friday Ford reported that its sales topped 2 million this year for the first time since 2007. Ford rose 0.5 percent.

Markets will be closed Monday in observance of New Year's Day.

In other corporate news:

— Sears Holdings Corp. fell 0.5 percent to $32.77 after Fitch Ratings downgraded the company's credit rating to "junk." Sears has plunged 30 percent this week after disclosing that it would close more than 100 Sears and Kmart stores because of weak holiday sales.

— Diamond Foods Inc. jumped 7 percent to $33.62. Rumors have been circulating that the hedge fund manager David Einhorn has acquired a stake in the food company that makes Emerald Nuts.

— AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, fell 19 cents to 33 cents. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last month. Late Thursday the company said its stock would be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange next week.