Just hours ahead of a deadline to avert an unprecedented default, President Barack Obama, without public ceremony, signs a bill that raises the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling and sets in motion a plan to reduce U.S. deficits over 10 years.

* Obama calls the bill an important first step to make sure the United States lives within its means. Obama says a balanced approach between spending cuts and tax increases is needed.

* Earlier, the Democratic-led Senate approves the hard won deal on a 74-26 bipartisan vote on Tuesday and the bill is rushed to the White House. Democratic leaders vow to refocus on the lackluster economy and job creation.

* Tuesday's action comes after the Republican-led House of Representatives approved the bill on Monday night on a bipartisan vote of 269-161.

* Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tells ABC News that the contentious battle over the debt limit and the threat of default had damaged confidence in the economy and that credit rating agencies would take a careful look at whether lawmakers have the will to reduce deficits.

* Despite the deal that will increase government borrowing authority through the 2012 presidential election year, Wall Street still worries about the U.S. economy and a possible downgrade of the U.S. AAA credit rating. U.S. stock indices open lower on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; editing by Jackie Frank)