Nov. 5, 2012 at 10:04 AM ET
Stocks opened slightly down in low volume on Monday as cautious traders awaited Tuesday's presidential election to place bets on which sectors are expected to perform better depending on which political party wins.
In opening minutes of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 24 points at 13,069. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is down three at 1,411. And the Nasdaq composite index was flat at 2,982.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sprinted through key states on the last day of campaigning for the White House, with investors eyeing some congressional races. Investors are nervous about the "fiscal cliff" and how the United States will deal with the $600 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes that could kick in next year and send the economy reeling.
"People are pausing ahead of the election and what that means for the fiscal cliff," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis.
A week after Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City and the surrounding area, close to 2 million people still have no power as cold weather sets in. On Sunday 30,000 to 40,000 people in New York City were in need of shelter.
Leading world economies pressed the United States on Sunday to act decisively to avert a rush of spending cuts and tax hikes, warning that the so-called fiscal cliff is the biggest short-term threat to global growth.
U.S. stocks ended a shortened trading week caused by Hurricane Sandy with a sell-off on Friday, and major indexes erased early gains sparked by a stronger-than-expected payrolls report.
In Europe, renewed focus on the finances of Greece combined with uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. election to push stocks lower. The benchmark index was down 0.4 percent in Germany, 0.8 percent in France and 0.5 percent in Britain.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.