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Stocks lower...Senate passes budget test vote...Consumer prices flat

Tuesday - 12/17/2013, 12:01pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks have edged lower in trading this morning. The S&P 500 is down 4 points, to 1,782. The Dow Jones industrial average is down 10 points at 15,894. And the Nasdaq composite has dropped 7 points, to 4,023.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bipartisan budget bill that would ease some painful across-the-board spending cuts that would otherwise slam the Pentagon and domestic agencies has passed a test vote in the Senate. Today's vote ensures the measure will pass the Democratic-led chamber no later than Wednesday and head to the White House to be signed into law. Top Senate Republicans oppose the bill, which would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already underway, easing about half of the scheduled cuts.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting today -- its last policy meeting of 2013. The Fed will likely keep its economic stimulus measures in place at least through March, according to a recent survey of economists.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer prices stayed flat in November, held down by falling gas prices, and inflation remains low across the broader economy. The Labor Department says the consumer price index was unchanged last month, after dropping 0.1 percent in October. Gas prices declined 1.6 percent in November to keep overall prices down. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have risen just 1.2 percent. That is significantly below the Fed's inflation target of 2 percent.

UNDATED (AP) -- U.S. homebuilders' confidence has bounced back strongly this month, suggesting many will ramp up construction and hiring in the coming months. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index has climbed to 58. That's up from 54 in November and matched an eight-year high reached in August. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

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