The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 16, 2012

Stocks turn higher as fiscal talks progress

— NEW YORK (AP) — Optimism that President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders can reach a deal on the budget deficit and avoid the "fiscal cliff" helped push stocks higher for the first day out of the past four.

The market started lower Friday but spiked higher shortly before midday as the top members of the House and Senate spoke at the White House following a closed-door session with Obama. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both said they offered higher tax revenue as part of a deal. Boehner said he outlined a framework that is consistent with Obama's call for a "balanced" approach of both higher revenue and spending cuts.

"It's a good start ... the fact that they were all standing together," said Ben Schwartz, the chief market strategist at Lightspeed Financial, a New York-based broker.

The Down Jones industrial average was up 30 points at 12,595 as of 1:56 p.m. in New York, after falling as much as 71 points at mid-morning. The S&P was up four points at 1,357 and the Nasdaq rose 12 points to 2,850.

Investor concern that Obama and Congress won't reach a deal on how to cut the budget deficit has caused a sell-off in stocks since Election Day. The Dow is down 5 percent since Nov. 6. If an agreement isn't made, automatic government spending cuts and tax increases are set to kick in at the beginning of next year. The measures total about $700 billion for 2013 and could send the country back into recession.

The Dow is still lower for the week and is on track to record its fourth straight weekly decline. That slump has pared the index's gains for the year to 2.9 percent. The S&P 500 is also heading for a weekly decline, and is on track to have fallen three of the last four weeks.

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