Stocks continued their weeklong slide in early trading as congressional leaders were to arrive at the White House to begin talks with President Obama over the looming "fiscal cliff."
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 51 points, or 0.4%, to 12,491 shortly after the opening bell.
The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8 points, or 0.6%, to 1,346.
The Nasdaq, which has entered into a correction after declining more than 11% from its mid-September high, lost 14 points, or 0.5%, to 2,822.
Economists have warned the fiscal cliff's automatic spending cuts and tax increases due at year's end could push the fragile U.S. economy back into recession.