U.S. stocks were little changed in early trading on Tuesday (December 4) as the market remains hostage to negotiations in Washington on how to avert a "fiscal cliff" that could push the U.S. economy into recession.
Republicans in Congress proposed steep spending cuts to bring down the budget deficit on Monday (December 3) but gave no ground on U.S. President Barack Obama's call to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and the proposal was quickly dismissed by the White House.
Headlines about the back-and-forth preliminary proposals by Republicans and Democrats have fixated the market. Still, many investors expect the two sides to come up with a deal before the year-end deadline, which could trigger a rally in equities.
Obama will meet with U.S. governors at the White House on Tuesday to talk about the fiscal cliff, a $600 billion (USD) package of tax hikes and federal spending cuts that would begin January 1.
Coach became the latest company to advance the date of its next dividend payment. Expectations of higher taxes on dividends kicking in in 2013 have pushed many companies to pay special dividends this year or advance their next pay-back to investors.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 27.92 points, or 0.22 percent, to 12,993.52. The S&P 500 edged up 0.44 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,409.90. The Nasdaq Composite fell 4.44 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,997.76.
Toll Brothers shares rose 1.8 percent to $33.01 after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder reported a higher quarterly profit and said new orders rose sharply.