FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, file photo, Floor official Nicholas Brigandi, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are opening mixed on Wall Street as traders keep a close eye on budget talks in Washington as a deadline approaches for reaching a deal. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:34AM
Stocks were flat Wednesday as talks aimed at averting a “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and government spending cuts hit a lull. General Motors stock surged after the government announced plans to shed its ownership stake in the company.
Just after the opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average was down three points at 13,348. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was unchanged at 1,446. The Nasdaq composite index was up five points at 3,059.
House Speaker John Boehner announced Tuesday that Republicans would push for a “Plan B,” separate from negotiations with the White House, that would extend decade-old tax cuts for everyone making less than $1 million a year.
The move was a surprise and came after the White House offered to raise top tax rates on households earning more than $400,000, higher than the $250,000 that President Barack Obama argued for during the campaign.
If the Obama administration and congressional Republicans don’t strike a deal by Jan. 1, taxes go up for almost all Americans, and government spending will be cut across the board. The combination could lead to a recession.
GM stock soared $1.93, or 7.6 percent, to $27.42 after the company said it would spend $5.5 billion to buy 200 million shares of GM stock back from the U.S. government.
The government pledged to sell its remaining 300 million shares on the open market and shed its entire ownership stake in 12 to 15 months. The government got GM stock as part of a 2009 bailout.
Elsewhere on Wall Street, technology stocks and energy companies were among the early winners. Telecommunications companies and utilities fell the most in early trading.
Business software maker Oracle jumped $1.16 to $34.04 a share after reporting stronger earnings as companies splurged on software and other technology.
In the bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 0.02 percentage point to 1.80 percent.