Stocks finished mixed, following a sell-off in Europe, on worries over Portugal possibly needing a financial bailout, ahead of the kick-off of the fourth-quarter earnings season.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 37.31 points, or 0.32 percent, to close at 11637.45. However, at one time, the Dow was down by as much as 100 points. The S&P 500 index slipped 1.75 points, or 0.14 percent, at 1269.75.
The Nasdaq gained 4.63 points, or 0.17 percent, at 2707.80.

Euro zone countries, notably Germany and France applied pressure on Portugal to accept a bailout to alleviate its debt problems.

Britain's FTSE-100 slipped 0.47 percent, the DAX in Germany shed 1.31 percent and France's CAC 40 tumbled 1.64 percent.

Sara Lee (NYSE: SLE) soared 4.48 percent on reports that Apollo Global Management and other private equity firms may seek to acquire the company.

A number of merger deals dotted the U.S. investment landscape. DuPont (NYSE: DD) said it will purchase Danisco, a Danish food ingredients company, for $5.8 billion in cash.

Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) will be acquired by Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) for $13.7 billion in stock

Conexant (Nasdaq: CNXT) jumped 14.29 percent after Standard Microsystems (Nasdaq: SMSC) said it would buy the firm for $284 million.

Playboy Enterprises (NYSE: PLA) soared 17.12 percent after it agreed to be taken private by founder Hugh Hefner.

Oil futures climbed by 1.61 percent to close at $89.45 per barrel. Gold futures rose modestly.

Bonds edged up as the yield on the 10-Year Treasury slipped to 3.30 percent.