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.