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Stocks mixed as investors peer over fiscal cliff

NEW YORK -- Stocks were mixed at the start of the last trading day of 2012, as investors awaited word on whether President Obama and Congress would reach a deal to avert a fiscal crisis. 

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 7 points, or 0.1%, to 12,931 shortly after the opening bell.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 4 points, or 0.3%, to 1,406. The technology-heavy Nasdaq gained 18 points, or 0.6%, to 2,979.

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The Dow took a sharp late-day dive Friday as negotiations between the president and congressional leaders hit a snag. The blue chip index lost 158 points Friday, or 1.2%, to 12,938.

Light trading over the holidays has amplified investor reaction to any sliver of news about efforts to avert the spending cuts and tax hikes that economists warn could push the U.S. back into recession if left unresolved by year’s end.

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