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December 25 2012, 01:49AM

US stocks have opened lower at the start of a shortened Christmas Eve session amid pessimism about prospects for a "fiscal cliff" deal by the end of the year.

In the first few minutes of trade on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 35.94 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 13,154.90.

The broad-market S&P 500 shed 3.46 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 1,426.69.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite lost 6.91 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 3,041.09.

The White House and lawmakers have until the end of the year to reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of steep tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect in January.

Experts warn that going over the "cliff" could take the world's biggest economy back into recession.

President Barack Obama and Congress are currently on Christmas break, but are expected to return to Washington later this week.

"The looming unresolved US fiscal cliff continues to hamstring conviction, robbing the Street of holiday cheer," said analysts with Charles Schwab & Co.

On Friday, the Dow ended the session down 0.91 per cent, while the S&P 500 fell 0.94 per cent and the Nasdaq dipped 0.96 per cent.