NEW YORK — Stocks ended the week more or less where they started it as investors watched closely while lawmakers in Washington worked at thrashing out a budget agreement.
After inching 3.76 points higher on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 13,025.58. That's a gain of just 16 points for the week, one of the Dow's smallest moves this year.
The Standard and Poor's index edged up 0.23 points to 1,416.18 on Friday. The index was up 0.5 percent for the week. The Nasdaq composite was down 1.79 points Friday to 3,010.24. It gained 1.46 percent for the week.
The main driver for markets this week has been the talks between the White House and Congress over the "fiscal cliff," a series of sharp government spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start Jan. 1 unless an agreement is reached to cut the budget deficit. Economists say that those measures, if implemented, could push the U.S. economy back into a recession.
Optimism that a deal will be done was greeted with rallies, while pessimistic comments from lawmakers were followed by selloffs.
President Obama argued Friday that allowing taxes to rise for the middle class would amount to a "lump of coal" for Christmas, while Boehner declared that negotiations to surmount a looming fiscal cliff are going "almost nowhere."
"My sense is that investors are going to be busy reading headlines every day for the next three weeks," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Group in Chicago.