Why the Dow Is Plunging

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is taking a beating today. As of 12:55 p.m. EST, the index is down 298 points, or 2.25%. Now that we know Barack Obama will remain the president, the Senate will remain controlled by the Democratic Party, and the House of Representative will remain controlled by the Republican Party, the big looming question is: Will the parties manage to work together?

Many feel that the government has been in gridlock over the past few years, with neither political party willing to compromise on key issues, and now that we know the election results, the balance of power looks similar to what we have seen over the past few years. This may have been what caused ratings agency Fitch to announce this morning that the U.S. will lose its "AAA" credit rating if the three groups do not come together on an agreement pertaining to the fiscal cliff.

Most economists believe that the end of the Bush tax cuts and automatic spending cuts aimed to reduce the federal budget deficit -- both of which are scheduled to happen on Jan. 1, 2013 -- would send the country into another recession. In addition, Treasury officials have said the government will hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit at the end of the year, and if steps are not taken to balance the budget or raise the debt ceiling, the nation will face a possible default in 2013.

Every single Dow component is trading lower today. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) are two of the biggest losers today, down 5.8% and 4.6%, respectively. Not only would a lowered U.S. credit rating hurt the financial industry, but many believe that tougher financial regulation is coming down the political pipeline.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) is the other big loser of the day, with shares down 4.2%. Many investors initially believed the Affordable Healthcare Act would help the health insurance industry, but judging by the price movement today, there are some who disagree. Working to comply with the new law's requirements may initially hurt the company, and today's move lower could be just the start of a long downward slide.

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