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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the "fiscal cliff" earlier this week.

KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

The Toronto stock market closed lower Friday amid growing skepticism about whether U.S. lawmakers can keep the U.S. economy from going over the "fiscal cliff."

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 57.64 points to 12,316.12 as the clock ticked towards huge spending cuts and significant tax increases that will automatically click in after Dec. 31 if there is no deal.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.16 of a cent at $1.0035 (U.S.).

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U.S. markets were also depressed with the Dow industrials down 158.2 points to 12,938.11, the Nasdaq off 25.59 points at 2,960.31 and the S&P 500 index down 15.67 points at 1,402.43.

Traders had looked forward to a mid-afternoon meeting at the White House for last-minute talks. But losses deepened in the last minutes of the session amid reports that President Barack Obama was not presenting a new budget offer to congressional leaders.

North American markets lost ground this shortened trading week as top U.S. lawmakers continued to cast blame on each other for the fiscal-cliff impasse while portraying themselves as open to a reasonable last-minute bargain.

The TSX declined 0.56 per cent while the Dow industrials gave back 1.9 per cent.

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