NEW YORK — Stocks are headed for a fourth straight loss on Wall Street as a budget deadline neared with no deal in sight.
Investors were spooked by a survey that found consumer confidence plunged this month as Americans worried about the looming fiscal "cliff." That refers to tax increases and government spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning of the year if a budget deal isn't reached.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 78 points to 13,036 shortly before noon Thursday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 10 points to 1,410 and the Nasdaq fell 20 points to 2,970.
The market was unimpressed by scattered signs that the U.S. economy might be improving. The government reported that unemployment claims fell and sales of new homes rose.