US stocks lower on 'fiscal cliff' pessimism

US stocks slid during a shortened Christmas Eve session Monday amid pessimism about prospects for a "fiscal cliff" deal by the end of the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 32.03 points (0.24 percent) at 13,158.81 at about 1545 GMT.

The broad-market S&P 500 shed 3.29 points (0.23 percent) to 1,426.86 while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite lost 9.54 points (0.32 percent) at 3,011.47.

The White House and lawmakers have until the end of the year to reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of steep tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect in January.

Experts warn that going over the "cliff" could take the world's biggest economy back into recession.

President Barack Obama and Congress are currently on Christmas break, but are expected to return to Washington later this week.

"The looming unresolved US fiscal cliff continues to hamstring conviction, robbing the Street of holiday cheer," said analysts with Charles Schwab & Co.

With markets on a holiday schedule and set to close at 1800 GMT instead of 2100 GMT, Briefing.com's Dick Green predicted that volume would be light and potentially very volatile.

"The market remains obsessed with the fiscal cliff negotiations, or the lack thereof," he wrote.

"The holidays will make further progress extremely difficult, and the bitter tone is only likely to increase as the new year begins."

Stocks in focus included online deals company Groupon, which fell 2.7 percent.

On Friday, Groupon announced it had acquired CommerceInterface, a provider of web-based channel management technology used in e-commerce operations, to enhance its Groupon Goods marketplace.

Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion were down 0.6 percent after plummeting Friday on investor fears that its new smartphone platform will thin the ranks paying for its service.

Microsoft meanwhile was down 1.4 percent amid a report about tepid sales of its new Windows 8 software.

On Friday, the Dow ended the session 0.91 percent lower, while the S&P 500 fell 0.94 percent and the Nasdaq dipped 0.96 percent.

Monday's bond prices fell. The 10-year US Treasury yield rose to 1.78 percent from 1.75 percent late Friday, while the 30-year climbed to 2.94 percent from 2.92 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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