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US STOCKS-Wall Street little changed as Fed set to meet

Rodrigo Campos
Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 | 10:41 AM ET

* Comcast mulls scenarios for possible Time Warner deal

* U.S. consumer prices flat in November

* KKR to pay for its KFN unit with stock

* Indexes: Dow up 0.05 pct, S&P down 0.2 pct, Nasdaq off 0.16 pct

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Tuesday as the Federal Reserve prepared to begin its last policy-setting meeting of the year.

Although many in the market expect the Fed to begin to wind down its market-friendly $85 billion a month in asset purchases in March, some are betting on an earlier tapering of stimulus after a recent string of better-than-expected economic data.

U.S. consumer prices were flat in November, but a bounce back in the annual inflation rate from a four-year low will probably give the Fed cover to start the taper. Separate data showed the U.S. current account deficit was the smallest in four years in the third quarter as exports increased and more income was earned abroad.

The Fed has said its current policy is data-dependant, and some market participants believe the U.S. central bank will upgrade its estimates for economic activity after a two-day meeting that is set to begin later on Tuesday.

"The Fed meeting begins today so I don't expect the market to do much after yesterday's strong performance," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"The news remains consistent with an economy that continues to gain traction and the market has discounted a Fed move."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.28 points or 0.05 percent, to 15,892.85, the S&P 500 lost 3.49 points or 0.2 percent, to 1,783.05 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.391 points or 0.16 percent, to 4,023.126.

KKR & Co said Monday it would acquire its specialty finance company KKR Financial Holdings in a $2.6 billion deal, paid for with KKR shares trading at an all-time high. KFN shares rose 27.5 percent to $12.05 while KKR slipped 2.9 percent to $24.36.

Facebook shares rose 1.8 percent to $54.81 after the Wall Street Journal reported the social network will begin selling video ads later this week.

Shares of 3M rose 2.6 percent to $131.02 after the industrial conglomerate affirmed its outlook and raised its dividend.

AT&T said it would sell its wireline operations in Connecticut to Frontier Communications for $2 billion in cash, partly to fund the expansion of its 4G network. Frontier shares jumped 8.5 percent to $4.77.

Boeing's board raised the company dividend about 50 percent on Monday and approved $10 billion in new share buyback authority that the company said it would use in the next two to three years. Shares rose 1.8 percent to $137.12.