Markets take Fed disclaimer about fiscal cliff in stride

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks finished little changed Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the Fed does not have the ability to shield the economy from the fiscal cliff.

Stocks had jumped to session highs after the central bank said it would add further stimulus, only to reverse into negative turf as Bernanke addressed a news conference, taking questions that largely focused on the steep spending cuts and tax increases that start in January, should politicians fail to avert them with a new budget deal.

Halting a five-session winning run, the Dow industrials declined 2.99 points to 13,245.45.

Dow gainers included DuPont, which rose 1.4 percent after the chemicals company said it would repurchase as much as $1 billion of its shares in 2013 and that 2012 profit would come in at the high end of its outlook.

The S&P 500 index retained a 0.64-point gain to end at 1,428.48.

Aetna Inc.’s shares rallied 3.2 percent, a day after the health insurer projected earnings growth of about 6 percent next year.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.49 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,013.81. 

Laid-off worker sues ABC, anchor, chef over ‘pink slime’

A former employee of Beef Products Inc. is suing ABC News, anchor Diane Sawyer, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and others, saying that their use of the phrase “pink slime” ultimately cost him his job.

Bruce Smith was among 750 people laid off by the South Dakota beef processor earlier this year amid fears over the safety and quality of a meat product dubbed “pink slime” by critics.

The product, known in the industry as lean finely textured beef, was treated with ammonia to eliminate food-borne pathogens with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s blessing, according to the suit.

But Smith accused ABC, Sawyer, Oliver and food blogger Bettina Siegel, along with several other defendants, of spreading the “pink slime” moniker to suggest that the beef trimmings were dangerous to consume.