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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stocks finish flat on light volume, looming fiscal cliff (ext.CNN)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks finished little changed Monday amid thin trading volume and ongoing worries over the looming fiscal cliff as well as uncertainty over Europe and Greece.

Trading volume was particularly light with many traders out for the Veterans Day holiday. About 2.5 billion shares exchanged hands on the New York Stock Exchange Monday. Over the past month, average daily volume has clocked in at more than 3.5 billion shares. While the stock market was open, the bond market and banks were closed, and no major U.S. economic data was released.

After opening with small gains, all three indexes fell into the red before turning higher again in afternoon trading. But by the end of the day, the Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were all less than a point off from Friday's closing levels.

"It's all about the machinations over whether we can expect to see a compromise on the fiscal cliff," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. "The market just doesn't want to get ahead of itself."

Lawmakers have less than two weeks worth of scheduled work days in the lame duck session to strike a deal that prevents the onset of $7 trillion of spending cuts and tax increases in January, and Luschini is skeptical of that happening.

But rather than allowing the nation to careen over the fiscal cliff, he expects Washington will come up with short-term stop-gap measures that delay or soften the impact of the fiscal cliff, and push the task of making the big decisions until next year.

Stocks sold off sharply last week, with the major indexes sliding more than 2%, as investors worried the government would fail to cut a deal by January, potentially triggering a recession.

Meanwhile, Europe was also in focus Monday, as finance ministers from the 17 eurozone countries met in Brussels to discuss Greece's economic reforms.

Over the weekend, Greece's parliament approved the nation's 2013 budget. The vote was a big step toward unfreezing international bailout funds, even though disagreement among its creditors could push back the timetable for when that aid will resume.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar was flat against the euro and the Japanese yen but rose slightly versus the British pound.

Oil for December delivery fell 50 cents to settle at $85.57 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery settled unchanged at $1,730.90 an ounce. To top of page

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