Stocks whipsawed by fiscal cliff talks, end flat

The fiscal cliff took the stock market on a roller coaster ride Thursday. Small developments in the budget standoff yanked stocks back and forth all day. In the end, stocks closed lower for the fourth day in a row, sending the message that the budget standoff is still far from solved, the economy still far from healed. The erratic performance underscored how the budget debate can roil the market. The term refers to automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will kick in next week if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by Monday night. Even an increase in sales of new homes couldn’t distract investors from worries about the budget impasse.

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