Stocks Open Mixed as Cliff Talks Continue

U.S. stocks opened with limited gains on Wednesday as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continued negotiations to avert steep spending cuts and tax increases in the new year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 1.52 points to 13,349.44. The S&P 500 was off 1.46 points to 1,445.33. The Nasdaq Composite gained 2.18 points to 3,056.71.

Frustrated by their inability to wring more “fiscal cliff” concessions out of President Barack Obama, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives announced Tuesday night that they expect to pass their own tax bill as a backup plan to avert the tax hikes and automatic budget cuts set to occur in January.

U.S. builders broke ground on fewer homes in November after starting work in October at the fastest pace in four years. Superstorm Sandy likely slowed starts in the Northeast. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that builders began construction of houses and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000. That was 3 percent less than October’s annual rate of 888,000, the fastest since July 2008.

General Motors, trying to clear the stigma of being partly owned by the U.S. government, will spend $5.5 billion to buy back 200 million shares of its stock from the treasury. GM said Wednesday that it will pay $27.50 each for the 200 million shares, and it expects to close the deal by the end of the year.

FedEx Corp (FDX) profit fell 11.9 percent in the second quarter, less than investors had feared. The company reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of $438 million, or $1.39 per share, on Wednesday, compared with $497 million, or $1.57 per share, a year earlier.

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