NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were little changed in choppy morning trading on Thursday as upbeat guidance from Broadcom partially offset weakness in Apple shares, while traders kept an eye on fiscal negotiations in Washington.
Extending Wednesday's 6.4 percent decline, Apple was trading down 0.7 percent at $535 early on Thursday, after falling as much as 3.7 percent at the open, which brought the market capitalization of the world's largest publicly traded company down to below $500 billion briefly. In September, it was capitalized at a record $663 billion.
The PHLX semiconductor index <.SOX> rose 0.4 percent.
Budget discussions continued to be a key focus for investors. President Barack Obama said there could be a quick deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" - tax hikes and spending cuts set to begin next year, possibly driving the U.S. economy back into recession - if Republican leaders agree to raise tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year.
While Republican leaders in the House of Representatives insist that raising tax rates on the rich is a no-go, some GOP lawmakers now see it as inevitable to avoid the fiscal cliff.
"There are no real triggers here. It is just positioning going on for year-end, and this big decision" on the fiscal cliff, said Rick Meckler, president of hedge fund LibertyView Capital Management LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey.
He said Apple's weakness was taking a toll on the market and expects equities to continue trading choppily through the day.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 17.89 points, or 0.14 percent, to 13,016.60. The S&P 500 <.SPX> dropped 1.78 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,407.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 2.89 points, or 0.10 percent, to 2,976.59.
Shares of Apple were down 0.7 percent at $535, after earlier falling more than 3 percent.
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Without action from Congress in coming weeks, tax cuts on capital gains and dividends will expire at the end of 2012.
Several European equity benchmark indexes hit 2012 highs, boosted by hopes a U.S. budget deal will be reached before the year-end, and that the worst of Europe's debt crisis might be over. <.EU>
(Additional reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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