Stocks: Investors on edge over the cliff

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Investors' nerves are wearing thin as gridlock continues in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Stocks rose earlier this week amid optimism that a deal may be close, but retreated on Wednesday. Profit-taking put pressure on European markets early Thursday and U.S. stock futures indicate a flat start to trading.

Ahead of Thursday's open, the government released its final estimate of third-quarter GDP growth: a 3.1% annual rate. In other economic news, jobless claims rose by 17,000 to 361,000 in the latest week.

After the opening bell, the National Association of Realtors will publish its monthly report on existing home sales at 10 a.m. ET.

On the corporate front, homebuilder KB Home (KBH) released quarterly earnings that beat analyst estimates, but declined over the past year. Shares fell about 1.6% in premarket trade. Meanwhile, Rite Aid (RAD)stock soared nearly 9.7% after the company reported strong earnings.

After the closing bell, struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) will announce its quarterly results.

Related: Fortune 500: Worst-performing stocks of 2012

Calm down! Facebook is a business
Calm down! Facebook is a business

Shares of NYSE Euronext (NYX) surged 14% in after-hours trading Wednesday on a report that the exchange operator is in talks with rival IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE) "about a possible combination," according to The Wall Street Journal. The $8.2 billion cash-and-stock deal was confirmed early Thursday. Intercontinental shares fell 4.1% in premarket trade Thursday.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) shares slipped 4.8% late Wednesday, after the retailer beat expectations with its quarterly earnings but missed on sales and offered weak guidance.

Also late Wednesday, Google (GOOG) announced it will sell its Motorola Mobility Home division, which includes cable set-top boxes and modems, to Arris (ARRS) for $2.35 billion. Arris stock rose about 8.2% in premarket trading, while Google ticked slightly higher.

Fear & Greed Index

European markets were slightly higher in midday trading.

Meanwhile, Asian markets ended mixed, with Shanghai and Hong Kong posting gains and the Nikkei retreating after the Bank of Japan announced a widely anticipated extension of its bond-buying program.

The dollar was weaker against most major currencies.

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