Wall Street on a 'Fiscal Cliff' Ride

Morning Business Memo:

"Fiscal cliff" fears could lead to a major sell-off today on Wall Street. After the Republican revolt in the House, Speaker John Boehner was forced to abandon his plan to avert tax increases for most Americans. Asian stock markets were down sharply overnight. Stock averages have been on a "fiscal cliff" roller coaster. When hopes were raised earlier this week that an agreement could be in the works, the Dow Jones index had triple-digit gains Monday and Tuesday. Many business leaders warn that the longer it takes to deal with taxes and spending, the greater the harm will be to the economy. Coming into today's trading session, stocks are higher for the week. In Thursday trading, the Dow rose 60 points to 13,312.

Will the iconic trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange become a virtual museum? For 220 years, floor traders and their shouts have been at the heart of U.S. financial activity. But the business of buying and selling securities has been revolutionized by technology, reducing the need for human traders. The NYSE Thursday agreed to an $8.2 billion takeover by a 12-year-old Atlanta firm, IntercontinentalExchange Inc. ICE, an electronic trading market, says it has no plans to shut down the famous floor. But, says today's Wall Street Journal, "It's too late to stop the erosion of the Big Board's clout."

Instagram has changed its policy, abandoning a new terms-of-service agreement that sparked outcry from users. The online photo-sharing service was concerned that its images could appear in advertising. Instagram is owned by Facebook. A blog post says it will now ask users' permission to introduce possible ad products only after they are fully developed.

RIM's already struggling with falling sales. Now, BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion says it lost subscribers for the first time in the latest quarter. The global number of BlackBerry users dipped to 79 million, down a million from the spring. The subscriber figure matters because RIM, unlike other phone makers, gets paid monthly for forwarding email and Web data to BlackBerrys. RIM announced a small profit.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc

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