The Dow Jones industrial average was down seven points at 12,751 after the first 40 minutes of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 1 point at 1,375 and the Nasdaq composite was up 9 points at 2,892.
Abercrombie & Fitch, the purveyor of apparel to teenagers, was among the standout stocks. Abercrombie jumped $9 to $40.22 after reporting that its international business was thriving and that its net income soared 40 percent in the most recent quarter, more than analysts were expecting.
The strong results from Abercrombie were tempered by a report from the Commerce Department saying that Americans cut back on spending in October, suggesting that many are still cautious about the economy.
Sales dropped 0.3 percent last month after three months of gains. That's worse than analysts had been expecting, according to FactSet. The government also said auto sales fell 1.5 percent, the most in more than a year. Sales may have been hurt by Superstorm Sandy.
Investors will be closely watching a press briefing later Wednesday by President Barack Obama.
Stocks were roiled in the immediate aftermath of last week's presidential election on concern that the U.S. will fall over the "fiscal cliff." Unless lawmakers hammer out a deal to cut the budget deficit by Jan. 1, a series of tax increases and revenue cuts will be implemented that will likely push the U.S. back into recession.
Market participants are also awaiting the publication of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's October meeting on Thursday for more insight into how the U.S. economy is developing. The notes are scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury notes ros to 1.62 percent from 1.59 percent.
Among other stocks making big moves:
Cisco Systems, the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment, gained $1.27 to $18.10. Cisco said late Tuesday that its earnings rose 18 percent in the latest quarter and that U.S. companies are starting to spend again.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)