Fiscal Cliff Weighs on the Dow

The government had better do something quickly, because it seems every investor is exhausted by the swirling uncertainty and gloomy predictions surrounding the fiscal cliff. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) sure is, as investors continue to shy from the market with the cliff drawing closer by the day. As of 2:20 p.m. EST, the Dow has lost 115 points, or 0.9%. Besides a tech stock recording huge gains off an earnings victory and a handful of stocks making nominal gains, Dow members are almost all in the red, with little relief in sight for today's trading session.

Fiscal fears
The fiscal cliff has dominated everything from health care policy to broad macroeconomics, but it continues to hammer the markets. As Cornerstone Wealth Management's chief investment officer, Alan Skrainka, remarked: "Every investor now is a cliff watcher. The focus here is not on earnings, the Federal Reserve or oil prices; it's all about the fiscal cliff."

All the talk didn't bother Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , however. The company soundly beat earnings estimates for the most recent quarter. Cost-cutting and renewed sales driven by lower prices greatly helped the company's numbers. The great report sent shares up nearly 6%, mitigating many of the losses the stock had suffered for the past month; it had been down more than 9% in that span.

Tech has had a fairly good day today, accounting for two of the Dow's stocks in the green today. Along with Cisco, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) has recorded modest gains despite yesterday's Barclays report that mobile devices have continued their warpath against the PC market. Regardless of today's gains, however, the continued decline of PCs could endanger these stocks in the near future, should they fail to expand into more promising growth areas.

Lots of losers today
On the down side, industrials have led the Dow lower today. The fiscal cliff is projected to hit this economically reliant sector hard, and both Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) and Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) have seen shares fall more than 1% on the day. Caterpillar in particular has had a rough go lately: Shares of the industrial giant have fallen more than 12% over the past six months. While that could indicate a great buying point, economic concerns could just as easily keep this Dow staple in the red.

Unsurprisingly, the fiscal cliff also sent financials down. With investors lacking confidence in the ability of politicians to reach a compromise, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) each rank among today's top Dow laggards, losing 2% and 1.2%, respectively.

Fears over the fiscal cliff are hitting hard, and you'll have to be watching for every development in the economy's biggest flashpoint. How will this affect much-maligned Caterpillar, whose shares are down so much recently? Caterpillar is the market share leader in an industry in which size matters, and its quality products, extensive service network, and unparalleled brand strength combine to give it solid competitive advantages. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in our brand new report. Just click here to access it now.

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