The Dow Creeps Higher

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) headed into Turkey Day with its third gain in the past four sessions, moving up 48 points or 0.4%. Positive economic reports from the Labor Department and the manufacturing sector helped buoy the day's gains, and the ceasefire in Israel added a midday lift.

Initial unemployment claims fell by 41,000 to 410,000, beating expectations, but that figure is still well above claims in recent weeks as the effects of Superstorm Sandy have inflated the rolls of the newly jobless. Also, a preliminary reading of the Markit Purchasing Managers Index showed an increase to 52.4 from 51 in October, while Markit also reported that growth in output and domestic new orders hit a five-month high.

The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index came in lower than expected by 2 points, and across the Atlantic, EU officials were unable to come to an agreement that would unlock the next round of bailout funding for Greece.

On the trading desk, volume was light ahead of the holiday. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) was the biggest Dow gainer today, one day after the stock sank 12% on revelations of an $8.8 billion writedown. The PC-maker was forced the take charge because it said Autonomy, a software firm it acquired last year, had fudged its numbers. Today's stock jump was likely just a "dead cat bounce" after yesterday's sharp drop. The company still faces considerable challenges such as declining revenue and its core products' slow march toward obsolescence.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) gained almost 1% as its patent trial with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) concluded today. Google had claimed that Microsoft had used its patented wireless technology for its Xbox console and Surface tablet, and the trial is meant to decide a fair royalty payment. Google had asserted that the patent, which was originally held by Motorola Mobility, was worth $4 billion a year, while Microsoft claims it should only pay $1 million annually. With Microsoft's new tablet out on the market, the two companies will also do battle this holiday season, the results of which should go a long away to determining the staying power of the Surface, and Microsoft's future prospects in tablets.

Staying in the tech world, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) slid another 0.8% as the market continued to react to the news that its CEO would be leaving, and that the company is searching externally for a new leader. Increasingly, the market seems to believe that with the transition to mobile the chip-maker's best days may be behind it.

Finally, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) continued to court controversy as some workers have threatened to walk off the job on Black Friday, the retailer's busiest day. A Wal-Mart executive said on national TV that widespread picketing was not expected, and Wal-Mart requested an injuction from the National Labor Relations Board, but the group said it didn't expect to decide in time whether it would be warranted.

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