Status of ‘fiscal cliff’ talks keeps the markets guessing

NEW YORK – Stocks sank most of the day Thursday after more signs of tension emerged in federal budget talks. They recovered some of the loss after a late report that President Obama and the House speaker would meet.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 74.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to 13,170.72.

House Speaker John Boehner, speaking to reporters before noon, said the White House was so resistant to cutting government spending that it risked pushing the country off the “fiscal cliff.”

The Dow drifted lower all day and was down 98 points at its low, just after 3 p.m. EST. Then the Obama administration said the president and Boehner would meet later Thursday.

Stocks still finished in the red. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 9.03 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,419.45. It was the first loss for the S&P in six days, tying its longest winning streak since early August.

The Nasdaq composite index dropped 21.65 points to 2,992.16.

The decline in stocks came despite the fourth straight weekly drop in applications for unemployment benefits. Applications fell 29,000 last week to 343,000, the second-lowest this year.

N.Y. Times to begin selling stories in mini-book format

LOS ANGELES – The New York Times is getting into the business of selling bite-sized digital books based on its reporters’ work, giving it entree into a growing market for inexpensive “e-singles” that can be read in a couple of hours.

The Times’ first mini book will go on sale Monday. It’s an 18,000-word piece about skiers caught in an avalanche by Times reporter John Branch. The story, called “Snow Fall,” expands on a piece running in Monday’s paper. The mini book will sell for $2.99 in Amazon.com’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBooks and on Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

E-singles fall somewhere between magazine pieces, which can top out at around 10,000 words, and full-length books, which can run around 100,000 words.

The product meets the rising demand for content as people buy tablet computers like the iPad and Kindle Fire in increasing numbers. IHS expects global shipments of tablets to hit 120 million this year, just two short years after the iPad jump-started the category in April 2010. Tablet shipments are expected to hit 340 million in 2016.

And people aren’t just watching movies and surfing the Web on their mobile devices. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said in October that half of U.S. adults own a tablet or smartphone, and two-thirds of them get news on their device.

— From news service reports