Investors are taking profits after a strong year in the stock market.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average are both up about 14 percent for the year, including dividends, as a result of solid corporate earnings. The Nasdaq composite index, meanwhile, is up about 18 percent for the year after dividends.
That's sending major indexes lower on the final day of trading as investors lock in gains, or sell underperforming stocks to reap a tax benefit.
In early trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.66, or 0.1 percent, to 11,556.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.87, or 0.2 percent, to 1,256.01. The Nasdaq composite index dipped 9.62, or 0.4 percent, to 2,653.36.
Borders Group Inc. shares dove 13 percent to $1.01 after the nation's second-largest bookseller said late Thursday it has delayed payments to some of its vendors to preserve cash while it struggles to refinance its debt.
CVS Caremark Corp. fell less than 1 percent to $34.80 after the drug store chain and pharmacy benefits manager said it would pay $1.25 billion to Universal American Corp. for its Medicare prescription drug services unit. Universal American rose 37 percent to $20 on the news.
The price of the 10-year Treasury note rose slightly. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, fell to 3.33 percent from 3.36 percent late Thursday.
The dollar fell 0.5 percent against an index of six other heavily traded currencies. The euro and the Japanese yen rose.
The Dow is poised to end the year at its highest level since August 2008, before the height of the financial crisis. The S&P might rise to its best December in 20 years.
But the numbers mask what was at times gut-wrenching for investors.
Stocks plummeted in the spring after Greece required an emergency bailout to deal with its debt crisis. That raised concerns about debt issues in other European countries, including Ireland, which needed a bailout later in the year.
The May 6 "flash crash," which sent the Dow down nearly 1,000 points in less than a half-hour, also rattled investors. The Dow fell 14 percent from a high of 11,205.03 on April 26 to its low of 9,686.48 on July 2.
But stocks staged a comeback later in the summer after the Federal Reserve hinted at its plans for a $600 billion bond-buying program to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy.
Investors were also encouraged by an extension of Bush-era tax cuts and positive economic reports on unemployment, retail sales and consumer confidence, which suggested that Americans were beginning to spend again. Healthy corporate profits also played a big part in spurring optimism.
"All of the economic indicators are pointing to stronger growth next year," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage firm Avalon Partners Inc.
Consumer discretionary stocks in the S&P 500 have risen 26 percent this year, making them the best performers of the 10 industry groups in the index. Health care and utility stocks have been the worst performers, rising less than 1 percent for the year.
Stock buyers have also put money into riskier investments, including smaller value stocks. The Russell 2000 index, made up of small-cap stocks, is up 27.8 percent for 2010, including dividends.