Why the Dow Took a Late Afternoon Dive

It was another horrendous day on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) fell 185 points, or 1.5%, in today's session. The blue chips have now given back 675 points since President Obama's re-election, or more than 5%.

Blame the usual suspects, including the fiscal cliff and protests in Europe, as well as reports showing contractions in retail sales and manufacturer prices. Retail sales fell 0.3% sequentially in October, following robust growth in September, though the figure was still 3.8% higher than a year ago. Increases in gas station sales and online revenue have been particularly strong over the past year. The Producer Price Index also fell 0.2%, its first drop since May.

Discussing the fiscal cliff at his first press conference since the election, President Obama affirmed his desire to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire but prevent taxes on the middle class from going up. Stocks took a downward turn after those remarks this afternoon. Obama also met with business leaders, including CEOs from General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and Ford, after the conference to discuss ways to avert the economic shock.

In Europe, protests raged again as workers in Spain and Portugal carried out general strikes and unions in several other eurozone countries joined in with their own rallies. The effects of the demonstrations, which turned violent in a number of different instances, were seen in a number of different areas as Iberia, Spain's national airline, cancelled 700 flights, and the subway in Lisbon was closed. European markets were off about 1% on the day.

Looking at individual stocks, Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) was the only Dow component in positive territory, jumping 4.8% after reporting strong revenue and earnings growth in its quarterly report last night. Still, sales declined in core segments for the leading maker of networking devices, and shares notably fell over the course of the day, down 2.4% from their opening price. Shares are also nearly 10% lower than they were in September before concerns about a slowdown began arising.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) led the losers today, falling 3.6% as investors sued the volatile lender for $261 million for misrepresenting the value of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis.

General Electric was another major laggard on the day, with its shares dropping 3.2%. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) disclosed that it has dumped 88% of its stake in the conglomerate.

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