About a half hour into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 12 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was lower by 2 points and the Nasdaq gave back 3.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, gave a mid-morning press conference to warn we are likely to head over the fiscal cliff. All eyes remain on developments, or lack thereof, on Capitol Hill. If Democrats and Republicans don't come to some kind of agreement by New Year's Eve, the slowly recovering U.S. economy will be struck with some $600 billion in tax increases and across the board spending cuts at the federal level that threaten to deliver a 2013 recession.
U.S. President Barack Obama was due back in the White House today to continue negotiations.
Economists say the resilience of equity markets is due to the fact that most market participants are still betting that a deal will get done, if not by year's end, then soon after the New Year.
That is part of the reason that a stronger bearish sentiment hasn't plagued stocks.
"People are expecting some sort of compromise to save the day, so they're hesitant to short the market because news on that front will push the market higher," Mark Helweg, founder of financial tech company MicroQuant, told CNN Money.
Stocks on the Move Today Shares of Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE ADR: TM) ran up by 1.26% after the auto giant said it has reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a highly publicized case that involved unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles. Shares were last trading at $91.64, just shy of its 52-week high of $92.69
Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) were both active due to survey results for both companies.
In good news, an online shopping satisfaction survey crowned Amazon the best online retailer for the eighth consecutive year. Meanwhile, the survey also showed that JCP had the biggest drop among pollsters. AMZN gave back $1.82 to $246.84, falling with the broader market. JCP shares fell more than 3% to $20. 07, a good way from its 52-week high of $43.18.
Retail banking behemoth Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) shares slipped 1.22% along with other financials after WFC received an order to pay California customers $203 million in restitution for manipulating debt-card transactions to boost overdraft fees.
Shares of Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) plunged close to 3% after a U.S. jury ordered the once high-flying chip maker to pay $1.17 billion in a patent infringement case. The Pittsburg federal jury found MRVL infringed on patents for chip technology held by the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. At $7.18, shares of MRVL are near a low for the year.
In commodities, oil dipped 16 cents to $90.82 a barrel.
Gold, still on track for a 12th consecutive yearly gain despite a very weak showing in December, gained $2.90 to $1663.30, and silver tacked on 34 cents to $30.48
Biggest Economic News in Market Today The U.S. Labor Department reported before the bell that initial jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 22 dipped 12,000 from the previous week to 350,000. Economists were looking for an increase to 365,000.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index revealed that America's consumer confidence is hovering at a near four-year high. Propping the comfort level up are higher property values, historic low borrowing costs and falling gasoline prices.
"Households are increasingly confident about their own personal finances, which is likely to sustain the improvement in consumer sentiment in 2013, albeit low levels. This is part and parcel of the historically slow expansion the U.S. is currently experiencing," said Bloomberg's senior economist Joseph Brusuelas.
New home sales in November rose, logging its most robust pace in more than two years, another sign the improving housing market is showing some real signs of life.
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