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After spending most of the day on higher ground, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) finished the session down 58 points, or 0.5%. Markets rose late in the morning on promising news about Greece, as a group of finance ministers met and decided to give the struggling country two more years to implement necessary austerity measures. They also delayed a decision on the next round of bailout money until November 20. Leaders hinted that Greece was likely to receive an injection of $56 billion by that date.
Meanwhile, uncertainty loomed at home about the fiscal cliff. President Obama, who will meet with business leaders on Wednesday, and senior lawmakers on Friday, discussed the matter with top labor officials today. The union bosses pushed to keep the Medicare eligibility age at 65, and staked out positions on taxes and unemployment insurance. Tomorrow's meeting should shed more light on a possible solution.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) jumped to a multi-year high today on a bright earnings report, gaining 3.6% in the session. The home-improvement retailer benefited from a recovering housing market, posting earnings per share of $0.74, adjusted for the closing of seven stores in China, as the company decided to refocus its strategy on North America. Same-store sales were up 4.2%, and the retailer grew overall revenue by 4.6%, to $18.1 billion. Both top and bottom lines beat estimates, and management raised guidance to an EPS of $2.92 for the year.
Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) was also a big winner on the day, climbing 7.5% in after-hours trading, after topping estimates in its quarterly report. The networking king said profits rose 18% on a 5.5% sales increase, as adjusted EPS of $0.48 beat the consensus at $0.46. Cisco shares had dropped more than 10% within the last month, as pessimism built about a slowdown in the tech sector; so even after this evening's gain, the stock is still trading below its September level. The company also experienced headwinds in Europe, and saw revenue drop in its core switching and routing segments, so there are still plenty of concerns in spite of today's results.
On the other end of the tech spectrum was Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , which was down 3.2% on news that its Windows chief was shown the door. Steve Sinofsky had spent 23 years with company but, on Monday night, Microsoft said he was leaving, and will be replaced by Julie Larson-Green, who will be in charge of hardware and software, and Tami Reller, who will take over the day-to-day business of the division. The market seems to believe this is an early sign that the recently unveiled Windows 8 is not performing as expected.
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