Stocks lower as investors watch Washington
On Wednesday, the Dow declined for the first day in five. Stocks rallied in the afternoon after the Federal Reserve tied its pledge of super-low interest rates to an improvement in the unemployment rate, but the rally faded.
The Fed said it would hold interest rates super-low until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5 percent, a threshold the Fed believes may not be breached until the end of 2015. The rate is 7.7 percent today.
The Dow's close Wednesday of 13,245 put it within a point of its close on Election Day. After the election, stocks slid 5 percent as investors began to fret about the "fiscal cliff," but stocks have drifted back higher recently.
"I don't think anyone expected the markets to hold up this well as we get closer and closer to the deadline," said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
"Two possibilities: Either the markets are convinced that they'll reach some sort of agreement, or the markets don't care," he said.
David Steinberg, managing partner of DLS Capital outside Chicago, said that it was only natural for the market to pause after its run-up in recent weeks. He said that he did not think that the cliff would be a "grand event" for the market.
In the bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed to 1.73 percent from 1.70 percent late Wednesday.
Among individual stocks:
— Google gained $5.14, or 0.7 percent, to $702.70 after releasing an updated map application for the iPhone. Google Maps came pre-loaded on previous iPhones but was dropped for the derided Apple Maps earlier this year.
— SolarCity, which installs rooftop solar panels, began trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol SCTY. Shares were priced at $8 and shot to $11.79. Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, is the company's chairman.
— Clearwire, a struggling provider of mobile Internet access services, jumped 41 cents, or 15 percent, to $3.16 in heavy trading after Sprint Nextel offered to buy out the minority shareholders of the company for $2.1 billion, giving Sprint total control.
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