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After paying so much attention to global economics, the stock market turned back to the U.S., as budget and other fiscal matters took center stage. Fallout over the Obama administration's budget proposal continued to circulate as Congress mulls whether to extend payroll tax cuts through 2012. Just before 1:45 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) were down 44 to 12,830, while the S&P 500 was down six points at 1,346.

Among stocks in the Dow, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) rose about 0.5%. Rising retail sales in January likely helped the company, as the Commerce Department reported higher demand, especially for electronics and sporting goods. Yet as the domestic competitive picture remains tight, with Target (NYSE: TGT  ) starting to emphasize groceries as part of its response to Wal-Mart's supercenters, Wal-Mart is stepping up its attempts to grow in overseas markets like China.

Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) also rose slightly, despite some bad news on the European front. According to the new austerity pact that Greek lawmakers agreed to earlier this week, the nation must cut its spending on drugs by about $1.3 billion, forcing patients to make larger co-payments. The move is expected to spur an increase in demand for generic drugs, hurting name-brand manufacturers like Merck. Even worse, if the move is successful in Greece, other cash-strapped governments may try to follow the country's example.

Finally, AT&T (NYSE: T  ) dropped about 0.4% after reports that the coming update to the iPad will include models that run on the carrier's 4G wireless network. At least until now, telecom companies selling 3G-capable iPads haven't subsidized their sales with discounts -- in fact, those iPads have sold at a premium to base WiFi-only versions. With data-only plans costing a lot less than voice plans, lack of subsidies isn't likely to change anytime soon.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (5)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2012, at 3:40 PM, prginww wrote:

    Yeah, today's sell-off was undoubetedly all about the U.S. Love that $1.3 trillion deficit. Wait a minute! Doesn't that mean a titanic Congressional stalemate is going to break out until QE4 is launched? Thiat would be bullish and the market should have gone up!

    The downgrade of half the European sovereigns after the bell yesterday and cancellation of European financial ministers meeting tomorrow to discuss Greece had absolutely nothing to do with today's lackluster performance. I'm sure the Bank of Japan's trillion dollar intervention in the Yen and subsequent dollar strength today played no role in market action, either. All international economic developments yesterday and today were priced in months ago.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2012, at 7:43 PM, prginww wrote:

    Oh wait. The markets ended up today with 20% of the day's volume occuring in the final thirty seconds. All reports to the contrary, it had nothing to do rumor that a Greek politician might sign a letter saying he would really, really support the austerity measures he had voted for two days earlier. THAT is NOT market moving material. In fact, it was a sure sign that the minor fallout from Obama's budget has now dissipated and been completely priced in as well. Sound the all clear.

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Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,161.19 -8.49 -0.05%
S&P 500 2,126.41 -6.63 -0.31%
NASD 5,190.10 -25.87 -0.50%

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Related Tickers

10/28/2016 4:33 PM
^DJI $18161.19 Down -8.49 -0.05%
MRK $58.84 Down -2.45 -4.00%
Merck and Co. CAPS Rating: ****
T $36.51 Down -0.01 -0.03%
AT and T CAPS Rating: ****
TGT $68.83 Up +1.21 +1.79%
Target CAPS Rating: ***
WMT $69.99 Up +0.16 +0.23%
Wal-Mart Stores CAPS Rating: ***