Stocks rise despite lack of progress in ‘cliff’ talks

NEW YORK – The stock market ended higher Thursday after flipping between small gains and losses throughout the morning. Uncertainty about the “fiscal cliff,” just days away, was top of mind for many traders.

The Republican-controlled House pushed ahead with a bill aimed at averting the “fiscal cliff,” but President Obama has threatened to veto it and Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed to let it die.

Many traders now expect that the Republicans and Democrats won’t reach an agreement before Christmas. The political haggling kept markets muted, and trading volume was low.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 36 points before ending the day higher, rising 59.75 points to close at 13,311.72. Other indexes followed similar patterns. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 7.88 to 1,443.69. The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.02 to 3,050.39.

In Washington, the Republicans offered in their “Plan B” to raise taxes on the wealthy, but Democrats complained that it would not address the steep budget cuts that are automatically set to occur for military and domestic agencies.

Economy grew in summer, but not likely to this quarter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer as exports increased, consumers spent more and state and local governments added to growth for the first time in three years.

But the economy is likely slowing in the current quarter.

The Commerce Department’s third and final estimate Thursday of growth for the July-September quarter was revised up from its previous estimate of a 2.7 percent annual growth rate.

Growth in the third quarter was more than twice the 1.3 percent growth rate in the April-June quarter.

But disruptions from superstorm Sandy and uncertainty weighing on consumers and businesses from the “fiscal cliff” are likely holding back growth in the October-December quarter.

Many analysts predict an annual growth rate of just 1.5 percent for this quarter.

BlackBerry loses subscribers as new phone launch nears

TORONTO – BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, which is already struggling with plunging sales, said Thursday it lost subscribers for the first time in the latest quarter, as the global number of BlackBerry users dipped to 79 million.

But the Canadian company added to its cash position as it prepares to launch new smartphones on Jan. 30 that are deemed critical to the company’s survival.

RIM’s stock jumped $1.02, or 7 percent, to $15.14 in after-hours trading. That continued a three-month rally that has seen the stock more than double from its lowest level since 2003.

Three months ago, RIM had 80 million subscribers.

Analysts said the loss of 1 million subscribers was expected.

Once coveted symbols of an always-connected lifestyle, BlackBerry phones have lost their luster to Apple’s iPhone and phones that run on Google’s Android software.

— From news service reports