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Hope in Washington Brings Stocks Back From Early Losses

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It's another up and down day for stocks, but that's become status quo for markets lately. The big development on the fiscal cliff today was "constructive" talks between the White house and Congressional leaders this morning, which gave investors a little hope that we may get some sort of reasonable solution. Markets perked up from early losses, and near the end of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is up 0.12% and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) has gained 0.20%.

In more pressing matters than the fiscal cliff: Today we had the end of the Twinkie as we know it, and so far, it has yet to cause a market panic. There are unconfirmed reports that interns everywhere have been sent on a mission to stock-pile offices with the Hostess's chewy snacks before it liquidates its entire operation and the Twinkie is gone forever.

Back on the Dow, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) has fallen 2.6% after a disappointing report from rival Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) . The two computer makers have struggled mightily in recent quarters, and investors aren't seeing positive signs for the PC. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) new Windows 8 operating system may goose sales eventually, but for the third quarter, the numbers were pretty disappointing, and investors are selling everything PC related.

United Health Group (NYSE: UNH  ) is the Dow's biggest winner, climbing 1%. Today, the Secretary of Health gave states an extra month to decide if they were going to build their own health care exchanges or let the federal government run an exchange. Any delay in implementing the exchange is a positive for insurance companies, who will see profit pressure when they begin competing on an exchange. Or at least that's the theory.

In energy markets, oil has climbed 1.4% to $86.62 on continuing conflict in the Middle East. Israel continues strikes on Gaza, and the big concern is that energy production will be affected if the conflict grows.

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