Shortly after 1 p.m. on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 10 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down about 3 points and the Nasdaq slipped nearly 14.
Of note in the ongoing fiscal cliff saga was U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's 10 a.m. meeting with six state governors on how to avoid the looming double whammy of higher taxes and government spending cuts.
The White House guests included three Republican governors: Gov. Gary Herbert, R-UT; National Governors Association (NGA) Vice Chair Gov. Mary Fallin, R-OH; and Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Brown, who is best known for his battles with public employee unions during the election season.
Representing Democrats were Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, chairman of the NGA; Arkansas's Gov. Mike Beebe and Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota.
Following the meeting, President Obama will engage in his first television interview since the election at 12:30 p.m. with Bloomberg News.
Market participants continue to sit on the sidelines as the GOP and Obama administration butt heads over how to avert falling off the cliff.
Stock Market Today: What's on the MoveDiscount retailer Big Lots Inc. (NYSE: BIG) jumped 8% after handily beating earnings forecasts and raising its estimates for full year earnings.
Pep Boys (NYSE: PBY) slumped more than 11% after posting a loss on tepid sales and the company's auto stores and rising costs.
Geron Corp. (Nasdaq: GERN) plummeted some 27% after the biopharmaceutical company detailed it has stopped developing its treatments for brain cancers. The Menlo Park, CA-based company will also slash its workforce by 40% and begin hunting for a new CFO.
Jumping on the end-of-the-year special dividend bandwagon is Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) which announced it will pay early its dividends for the next three quarters, ahead of a possible dividend tax hike in 2013.
The biggest winner in the second, third and fourth quarter dividend acceleration, totaling 18 cents per share of outstanding coming stock, the equivalent of $867, according to data from Thomson Reuters, is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The company's largest shareholder will pocket a dividend check in the amount of $198.9 million.
Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) slumped 10% after the owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster cut its profit forecast for the year.
In commodities, just before noon, oil was trading at $88.14 a barrel, off nearly $1.
Gold prices slipped below $1,700, falling $21.50 to $1,699 as the fiscal cliff standstill continues to weigh on the yellow metal.
MORE: Gold's 11-year price tear is just the beginning. Here's where it's headed.
Looking OverseasAustralia's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate 0.25% to a record-matching low of 3% on Tuesday, as it attempts to sidestep a recession as the country's mining boom peaks.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada left interest rates unchanged at 1%, despite high hopes that Mark Carney, the next honcho to run Britain's central bank, would deliver a cut.
Creating market jitters were rumors that Moody's is preparing to downgrade stalwart Germany and the robust nations of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, The Guardian reported.
Plus, European finance ministers failed to reach a deal over a banking supervisor for the ailing Eurozone. Another attempt will come at the next meeting on Dec. 12.
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