* Senate Democratic leader attacks Republicans
* Consumer confidence hits four-month low
* Initial jobless claims near 4 1/2 year low
* Indexes down: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.8 pct, Nasdaq 0.6 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks declined on
Thursday after the leader of Senate Democrats warned the United
States appeared headed over the "fiscal cliff" and data showed
consumer confidence fell to a four-month low.
With only a few days left before devastating tax hikes and
spending cuts go into effect, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
said about the fiscal cliff, "It looks like where we're headed."
Reid criticized Republicans for refusing to go along with
any tax increases as part of a compromise solution with
Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff, which economists warn will
knock the economy into recession.
President Barack Obama was flying back to Washington from a
Christmas holiday to push for more talks, while the top
Republican in Congress planned to speak with House lawmakers to
avoid the year-end deadline. Still, gaps remained between the
The benchmark S&P 500 index is on track for its fourth
straight decline and is down 2 percent as negotiations over the
budget crisis stalled. A four-day decline would mark the longest
losing streak for the index in three months.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of
consumer attitudes in December fell to 65.1 as the budget crisis
took the steam out of a growing sense of optimism about the
economy. The gauge fell more than expected from a downwardly
revised 71.5 in November.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a
seasonally adjusted 350,000 last week and the four-week moving
average fell to the lowest since March 2008.
"Unfortunately, a term all of us are sick of hearing - the
fiscal cliff - appears to be dominating all aspects of the
financial market and consumer confidence," said Joe Heider,
principal at Rehmann Financial in Cleveland Ohio.
"What has happened here is even though the consumer
confidence number had a sharp decline, most people write it off
as a result of what is happening in Washington rather than
economic reality that is occurring in people's everyday lives."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the first of a
series of measures that should push back the government's debt
ceiling by around two months.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 77.41
points, or 0.59 percent, to 13,037.18. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index lost 9.71 points, or 0.68 percent, to 1,410.12. The
Nasdaq Composite Index fell 18.36 points, or 0.61
percent, to 2,971.80.
Marvell Technology Group fell 3.4 percent to $7.15
after it said it would seek to overturn a jury's finding of
patent infringement. The stock had fallen more tnan 10 percent
in the prior session after a federal jury found the company
infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University and
ordered the chipmaker to pay $1.17 billion in damages.
The PHLX semicnodnuctor index lost 0.7 percent.