US stocks fell Wednesday amid uncertainty about whether a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" could be reached by an end-of-year deadline.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 24.49 points (0.19 percent) to finish the session at 13,114.59.
The broad-market S&P 500 lost 6.83 points (0.48 percent) at 1,419.83, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite shed 22.44 points (0.74 percent) at 2,990.16.
"Investors in the US returned to business in the midst of the omnipresent tick-tick-ticking of the fiscal cliff clock," said analysts with Charles Schwab & Co.
The White House and Congress have until the end of the month to reach a compromise on how to avert a year-end crisis that could lead to stiff tax hikes and drastic budget cuts.
Experts say a dive over the so-called "fiscal cliff" could drive the world's biggest economy back into recession.
Obama was to head back to the capital late Wednesday from a shortened family Christmas break in Hawaii, and lawmakers are also expected back in Washington on Thursday.
Stocks in focus during the midweek session included those of online video giant Netflix, which gained 0.47 percent in the wake of an outage of its online film streaming service on Christmas Eve. On Wednesday, Netflix blamed Amazon for the incident, which rents out computing power in datacenters in the Internet "cloud." Amazon dropped 3.86 percent.
US commodities and derivatives market InterContinentalExchange (ICE) and its transatlantic peer NYSE Euronext were down 0.03 percent and up 0.09 percent respectively, after at least one shareholder complaint was filed to contest their planned fusion, announced last week.
Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion meanwhile soared 11.5 percent, recovering after a plunge on Friday on investor fears that its new smartphone platform will thin the ranks paying for its service.
Tech heavyweight Apple meanwhile lost 1.4 percent.
Bond prices rose. The 10-year US Treasury yield fell to 1.76 percent from 1.77 percent late Monday, while the 30-year dipped to 2.93 percent from 2.94 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely. Markets were closed Tuesday in observance of Christmas Day.