Dec. 19 - Summary of business headlines: Stocks slide on fiscal cliff gap; GM plans to spend $5.5 billion to reduce taxpayer stake; FedEx beats lower expectations, struggle continues; Gunmakers rally for first time since Connecticut massacre; UBS hit with record fine. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Markets slide for the first time in three sessions as investors scale back hopes of an impending deal on the fiscal cliff. The losses were the biggest in over a month for the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq. But analysts say the minor pullback suggests investors still believe an agreement will be reached. General Motors is moving closer to being back in the driver's seat. The automaker says it will buy back 200 million shares given to the government in exchange for that controversial bailout during the financial crisis. GM will shell out $5-1/2 billion, leaving taxpayers with a stake that is sure to mean a loss on the $50 billion bailout. Shares of GM revved up 6.6 percent. By the way, Canada says it is not willing to sell the stake it took during the crisis - yet. A drop in profits at FedEx was not as big as feared, but the results underscore the struggle the No. 2 package delivery company is having in turning around its freight business. A sluggish global economy means customers are using cheaper delivery methods. FedEx gained roughly one percent on the day. Two stocks to watch - gunmakers Smith & Wesson and Strum Ruger, both saw a hefty bounce after tumbling the two days following the elementary school massacre in Connecticut. President Obama says Second Amendment gun rights can be preserved but America has to be serious about curbing gun violence. In the latest economic news, new housing construction projects dropped for the first time in four months but permits for future building jumped to a 4-1/2 year high. The number suggests the housing recovery continues despite the first figures from November. Europe finally received confirmation UBS will get socked with a record $1.5 billion fine after admitting dozens of its employees manipulated Libor. The key global lending rate is used for all kinds of loans and financial products. Analysts, however, say UBS can talk the cost in stride. Meanwhile, no big strides for European markets, hovering near year-plus highs.