US stocks drifted mostly lower in early trade Wednesday as investors eyed Washington's budget impasse amid a looming deadline.
In the first 30 minutes of trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 9.82 points (0.07 percent) at 13,341.14.
The broad-market S&P 500 lost 2.73 (0.19 percent) to 1,444.10, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dipped 3.81 points (0.113 percent) at 3,050.93.
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.
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.