Wall Street closed nearly flat on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that monetary policy won't be enough to offset damage from the "fiscal cliff".
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped three points, or 0.02%, to 13,245 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ended little changed at 1,428. But the Nasdaq Composite Index shed eight points, or 0.28%, to end at 3,014.
The Fed central bank committed to monthly purchases of $45 billion in Treasuries on top of the $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed bonds it started buying in September. It also said it will keep its near-zero interest-rate programme in place until the U.S. unemployment rate falls to 6.5% from its current 7.7%.
Discussions to avoid the fiscal cliff intensified in Washington, but U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday that "serious differences" remain with President Barack Obama.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc plunged 2.8% following the Indian government's announcement of an inquiry into the company's lobbying practices.
Aetna, the third-largest U.S. health insurer, gained 3.2%, a day after the company gave a higher forecast for profit and revenue growth in 2013.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. climbed 2.4% after lifting the threshold it will pay for stock, signalling Chief Executive Warren Buffett views the shares as undervalued.
DuPont Co. rose 1.4% as the chemical maker announced a share buyback and said 2012 earnings will be at the high end of forecasts.
Eli Lilly & Co. plunged 3.2% after saying it’s conducting an added study for an experimental Alzheimer’s drug.
In Asia, shares gained on Thursday as Japanese exporters climbed after the yen touched an almost nine-month low versus the dollar.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.4% to 127 as of 1:18 p.m. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average increased 1.7%, while South Korea’s Kospi Index and Taiwan’s Taiex Index both added 0.7%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was little changed, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.7%.