“Stocks added to their gains to trade near session lows in thin trading Wednesday, dragged by retailers, as ongoing worries over the looming ‘fiscal cliff’ overshadowed a better-than-expected Case-Shiller home price index,” JeeYeon Park reports for CNBC. “‘There’s just no certainty and people don’t know where to step,’ said Stephen Guilfoyle of Meridian Equity Partners. ‘We’re kind of in a quandary here—the market didn’t catch at 1,422 like it was supposed to and the next catch point is 1,415 on the S&P. There’s not a lot of volume and you have a lot of traders with question marks on their heads right now.’”

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped into negative territory for the third-straight session… The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also erased their gains to turn lower. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, gained near 19,” Park reports. “Obama will return to Washington early on Thursday, according to the White House, to deal with the deadlocked talks between Democrats and Republicans on what to do with $600 billion in tax increases and automatic spending cuts, due to kick in on Jan. 1.”

“The worries over the fiscal cliff and an extremely weak report on the holiday shopping season put major retail stocks including Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Target under pressure,” Park reports. “Sales in the two months before Christmas rose just 0.7 compared to last year, the slowest rate of growth since 2008, according to the MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse. Analysts had been expecting growth of 3 to 4 percent… Meanwhile, Apple weighed on the tech sector and the Nasdaq 100 index, slipping nearly 1 percent.”

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