US stocks drifted lower Wednesday as investors digested mixed housing data and eyed Washington's budget impasse amid a looming deadline.
In the first 90 minutes of trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 14.15 points (0.11 percent) at 13,336.81.
The broad-market S&P 500 lost 2.38 (0.16 percent) to 1,441.41, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.21 points (0.01 percent) at 3,054.33.
The markets were watching President Barack Obama and top Republican John Boehner in their effort to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January, but differences remain.
Experts say failure to reach a deal could drag the world's biggest economy back into recession.
Wednesday's action also came as new Commerce Department figures showed a drop in US home construction in November, as the recent recovery paused in the troubled sector. However, new building permits for privately owned housing units, which signal potential future homebuilding, rose 3.6 percent.
Automaker General Motors climbed 8.13 percent on word the Treasury Department would sell its investment in the US automaker, a stake it bought as part of a government bail-out of the auto industry, over the next 12 to 15 months.
FedEx, the global delivery company, rose 3.1 percent after posting a net second quarter income of $438 million, down 12 percent from $497 a year ago.
On Tuesday, the Dow gained 0.87 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 1.15 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.46 percent.
Wednesday's Bond prices rose. The 10-year US Treasury yield fell to 1.78 from 1.83 percent late Tuesday, while the 30-year dipped to 2.96 from 3.0 percent.
Bond prices and yields move inversely.