* S&P/Case Shiller data tops expectations
* Obama heads back to Washington after vacation
* Indexes: Dow up 0.12 pct, S&P down 0.02 pct, Nasdaq down
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed
on Wednesday ahead of the resumption of negotiations over the
President Barack Obama, after vacationing in Hawaii, is due
back in Washington early Thursday for a final effort to
negotiate a deal with Congress to avert or at least postpone the
cliff, a series of tax increases and government spending cuts
set to begin next week.
"There is so little out there in terms of driving the
market, it is so quiet and the horizon is just so blank, the
only thing that could really bring the market any kind of
movement is something as symbolic as the President's early
return to Washington from his vacation in Hawaii," said Peter
Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New
"No one is hitting the panic button yet and part of that
lack of panic selling is the notion that the Street is getting
comfortable with the likelihood of a temporary fix for the
fiscal cliff - something that gets us over the date of Jan. 1
in a way where it can be re-addressed."
A Republican plan that failed to gain traction last week
triggered the recent decline in the S&P 500, highlighting market
sensitivity to headlines centered around the talks.
Data showed U.S. single-family home prices rose in October,
reinforcing the view the domestic real estate market is
improving, as the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20
metropolitan areas gained 0.7 percent in October on a seasonally
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 15.34 points,
or 0.12 percent, to 13,154.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
shed 0.31 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,426.35. The
Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.92 points, or 0.06
percent, to 3,010.68.
The benchmark S&P index is up 13.5 percent for the year, and
has recouped nearly all of the losses suffered in the wake of
the U.S. elections, when the fiscal cliff concerns moved to the
forefront of investors' focus.
Retailers will be in focus as data on the holiday shopping
season begins to come in. Holiday-related sales rose 0.7 percent
from Oct. 28 through Dec. 24, compared with a 2 percent increase
last year, according to data from MasterCard Advisors
"The broad brush was Christmas wasn't all that merry for
retailers and you have to ask what those margins look like if
the top line didn't meet their expectations," said Kim Forrest,
senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in
The Morgan Stanley retail index slipped 0.8 percent.
China's Sinopec Group and ConocoPhillips
will research potentially vast reserves of shale gas in
southwestern China over the next two years, state news agency
Xinhua reported. Conoco shares edged up 3 cents to $58.47.
An outage at one of Amazon.com Inc's web service
centers hit users of Netflix Inc's streaming video
service on Christmas Eve and was not fully resolved until
Christmas Day, a spokesman for the movie rental company said on
Amazon lost 1 percent to $256 and Netflix shed 0.7 percent