The stock market is struggling for direction with just hours to go before sweeping tax increases and government spending cuts kick in.
Negotiators from the White House and congressional Republicans were trying to narrow their differences Monday to reach a budget compromise ahead of a midnight deadline.
The Dow Jones industrial average hopped between small gains and losses. Shortly before noon it was up two points at 12,940.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up three points at 1,406 and the Nasdaq composite was up 18 at 2,978.
The Dow Jones industrial average is set to close about 6 percent higher for the year, slightly better than last year's gain of 5.5 percent.