US stocks dipped Wednesday amid ongoing investor uncertainty as President Barack Obama headed back to Washington to try to secure a year-end 'fiscal cliff' deal with Republican lawmakers.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 16.14 points (0.12 percent) in late morning trade.
The broad-market S&P 500 lost 4.81 points (0.34 percent) to 1,421.85, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite shed 16.19 points (0.54 percent) at 2,996.41.
"The action today through Friday will be heavily influenced by news on the fiscal cliff negotiations. Underlying that will be support from the traditional year-end bullish bias," said Briefing.com's Dick Green.
The White House and Congress have until the end of the month to reach a compromise on how to avert a year-end fiscal crisis that could lead to stiff tax hikes and drastic budget cuts.
Experts say a plunge over the so-called "fiscal cliff" could take the world's biggest economy back into recession.
Obama was to head back to the capital late Wednesday from Hawaii, and lawmakers are also expected back in Washington on Thursday.
On Christmas Eve, the Dow was down 0.39 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.24 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite shed 0.28 percent. Markets were closed Tuesday for Christmas Day.
Stocks in focus Wednesday included online video Netflix, which edged 0.1 percent higher in the wake of a service interruption.
US commodities and derivatives market InterContinentalExchange (ICE) and its transatlantic peer NYSE Euronext were up 0.3 percent and 0.4 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 were up 6.7 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 1.2 percent.
Monday's bond prices rose. The 10-year US Treasury yield slipped to 1.76 from 1.77 percent late Monday, while the 30-year dipped to 2.93 from 2.94 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.