U.S. stocks little changed after the open; GDP, fiscal cliff in focus

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Investing.com - Investing.com - U.S. stock markets were little changed after the open on Thursday, after data showed that U.S. economic growth was revised up in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, investors continued to monitor negotiations among U.S. lawmakers to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" crisis.

During early U.S. morning trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, the S&P 500 was little changed, while the Nasdaq 100 held steady.

Revised data showed that U.S. gross domestic product increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.1% in the three months to September, up from a preliminary estimate of 2.7% and above expectations for growth of 2.8%.

In a separate report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance last week rose by 17,000 to 361,000, compared to expectations for an increase of 13,000 to 357,000.

Meanwhile, market players continued to monitor developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1, unless a divided Congress and the White House can work out a compromise in the two weeks left before the deadline.

Doubts over whether a deal will be reached ahead of the year-end deadline intensified Wednesday after a spokesman for President Barack Obama said that the White House would veto a tax and spending proposal presented by House Speaker John Boehner.

Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.

In corporate news, shares of NYSE Euronext surged 35% after the exchange operator agreed to sell itself to rival IntercontinentalExchange for USD8.2 billion. ICE shares were up 1.7% on the news.

Meanwhile, on the earnings front, Bed Bath & Beyond saw shares tumble 6.1% ahead of the open after the retailer provided earnings guidance which was below market consensus after markets closed on Wednesday. The company also authorized a share buyback of as much as USD2.5 billion.

For the third quarter, the company reported net income of USD232.8 million, compared to income of USD228.5 million in last year's corresponding quarter.

Shares in KB Home lost 6.1% in pre-market trade after the home builder said fiscal fourth quarter net income declined 45% to USD7.7 million from USD13.9 million in the same period a year earlier.

On the upside, Rite-Aid saw shares rally 12.5% after the drug-store said it swung to a third-quarter profit of USD60.5 million from a loss of USD54.5 million in the year-ago period.

Jabil Circuit saw shares climb 6.2% after the firm reported fiscal-first-quarter sales which exceeded market expectations late Wednesday.

Other stocks in focus included Blackberry maker Research In Motion and athletic apparel giant Nike, which were both slated to release corporate earnings after Thursday's closing bell.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release official data on manufacturing activity in Philadelphia as well as a report on existing home sales.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were steady in rangebound trade, as investors eyed ongoing U.S. budget talks.

The EURO STOXX 50 was added 0.1%, France's CAC 40 eased up 0.1%, Germany's DAX was flat, while Britain's FTSE 100 was little changed.

During the Asian trading session, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 1.2%, as investors locked in profits after the Bank of Japan boosted the size of its asset-purchase program by JPY10 trillion, broadly in line with market expectations.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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