Stock Market Today Slumps on Sluggish Service Industry

Stock Market Today, Jan. 6, 2014: U.S. stocks, including all three major indices, closed in the red today as growth in the service industries was weaker than expected, adding to the heavy start to 2014 trading.

U.S. services sector shrank last month, with an index of 53.0, down from 53.9 in November and below expectations for 54.8. But, in a more positive economic indicator, factory orders rose 1.8% in November from a year prior, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.

In response, the Dow Jones Industrial Average today closed down 0.27% at 16,425, while the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 0.24% at 1,827 and the Nasdaq Composite Index is off 0.36% at 4,118.

In addition to today's economics reports, retail stocks are likely also weighed by the headline-grabbing cold weather, which investors expect to hurt January's retail sales.

Metal futures are sagging along with stocks today. Gold for February delivery closed down 0.5% at $1,238 per ounce; silver was down 0.8% at $20.55.

Meanwhile, energy futures rose. Light, sweet crude oil for February delivery was up 0.3% at about $93.69 per barrel, heating oil is up 0.1% at $2.95 per gallon, and natural gas was flat at $4.30 per million BTUs.

In other positive momentum today, Bitcoin, an alternative virtual currency, pushed above $1,000 again after Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA) said it will test Bitcoin use for seven of its online games, Bloomberg reports. Zynga is the developer behind games like FarmVille and Words with Friends [Think Alec Baldwin on a plane...]

ZNGA closed up 1.8%, marking a day high at $4.07 and trading in a 52-week range of $2.40 to $4.55.

Technology Stock News Today: T-Mobile Buying Verizon's Licenses

In other technology stocks news today, T-Mobile U.S. (NYSE: TMUS) closed up nearly 4% this session after it said it will buy certain 700 MHz A-Block spectrum licenses from Verizon Communications' (NYSE: VZ) wireless unit for $2.37 billion in cash. T-Mobile says it will also buy certain AWS and PCS spectrum licenses that are worth approximately $950 million. VZ closed up about 1%.

"These transactions represent our biggest move yet in a series of initiatives that are rapidly expanding our already lightning fast network and improving its performance across the country," Chief Executive Officer John Legere said in a statement.

And Verint Systems (Nasdaq: VRNT) shares closed up more than 9% after the company agreed to buy KANA Software for approximately $514 million in cash. The deal is seen closing in the company's first quarter.

VRNT, which marked a new 52-week high at $46.70, said it expects KANA Software to generate non-GAAP revenue of $140 million to $150 million in calendar year 2014.

JPMorgan Chase Faces Another $2 Billion Payment

In the financial sector, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) closed up about 1% today, even as the bank faces another hefty payment to the federal government, this time for its role in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

While the exact amount should be determined this week, The New York Times says the bank faces up to $2 billion for allegedly ignoring signs of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Healthcare Sector: Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Pops 15%

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: PPHM) closed up about 15% today after it said it has received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.

About 18.6 million shares of PPHM have already traded hands, versus the daily average of 1.2 million shares.

The Fast Track programs of the FDA are designed to facilitate the development and expedite the review of new drugs that are intended to treat serious or life-threatening conditions.

In other healthcare sector news, Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: SRPT) dropped 8.2% after Citi cut the stock to Sell from Neutral, citing uncertainty over the company's Eteplirsen phase three trial design and outcome. Citi's price target on SRPT is $13.

Today's Top Investor Story: How to Find the Best Small-Cap "Sparks" (in 90 Seconds or Less)