NEW YORK - The stock market ended higher Thursday after flipping between small gains and losses throughout the morning. Uncertainty about the fiscal cliff was top of the 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 will not 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.
Also on the minds of many traders was the news that NYSE Euronext, the parent of the New York Stock Exchange, planned to sell itself to IntercontinentalExchange, an upstart and lesser-known exchange operator based in Atlanta.
NYSE Euronext's stock surged $8.20 to $32.25. The boost at IntercontinentalExchange was much more modest, with the stock rising $1.79, or just more than 1 percent, to $130.10.
The government said the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer, higher than the previous estimate of 2.7 percent. But growth is likely to slow in the current quarter and early next year.
The government also reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 17,000 to 361,000 last week, a disappointment after four straight weeks of declines. The four-week moving average of jobless claims, a less volatile measurement, fell.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 1.80 percent. World markets were also mixed. Major stock indexes in Britain and Japan edged lower, while France and China rose.
A slate of companies reported earnings, with varied results:
Darden Restaurants, the parent of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, fell $1.34 to $45.47 after the company reported sharply lower profits. New ad campaigns meant to attract younger customers have not done as well as the company hoped.
Scholastic slipped 50 cents to $28.79 after reporting lower profit and revenue, with demand fading for its popular Hunger Games trilogy.
CarMax shot up 9 percent, rising $3.13 to $37.97, after reporting higher profit and revenue. Sales of used cars helped push results higher.