Fiscal Fears Finish Off the Dow's Down Day

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There's just no escaping the fiscal cliff for anyone -- from Main Street all the way to Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) proved that today, as fears over the cliff sent stocks hurtling lower this afternoon. The index closed out around session lows, down 89 points, or 0.7%. While some Dow members had posted modest gains earlier in the day, only six stocks managed to stay in the green in what turned out to be a rather poor day for investors.

The fiscal cliff's bringing the pain
The Dow had been holding off big losses until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced disappointment  at the little progress achieved on Congressional negotiations over the fiscal cliff. That was enough to shake investors into a major sell-off, as the Dow declined sharply from that point. Plenty of companies have much to lose should the dreaded combination of draconian spending cuts and tax increases hit in January.

Industrials, in particular, have plenty at stake as the sectors highly tied to the performance of the economy. Stocks in the sector reflected unease, as General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) both saw shares fall, down 0.9% and 0.8%, respectively. It's the latest round of head-shaking for Caterpillar investors, as the stock's lost more than 10% in 2012.

Financials decided to join in on the sell-off, as both Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) ranked among the top Dow laggards with losses of 2.2% and 1.8%, respectively. American Express' losses came despite record sales during Black Friday, overshadowed by uncertainty over the fiscal cliff's impact on consumers. With many predicting the cliff to cut GDP growth  should it strike, American Express could have plenty to lose from consumers tightening their wallets.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the worst-hit stock of the day was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . This stock has been all sorts of drama over the past few market sessions, between ranking as the top riser yesterday from falling more than 10% earlier in the month after the company toughed out a writedown of nearly $9 billion over its Autonomy purchase. Between its place in a dwindling PC market and its poor recent history -- HP's stock has lost more than 70% in the past two years alone -- it's hard to see much of an upside in this stock.

Another down day
Several stocks, such as Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) and 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) , managed to eke out small gains on the day, but overall, today's Dow session was just another one for investors to put behind them.

The fiscal cliff has shown no signs of slowing down so far, and with Congress seemingly paralyzed over the issue, industrials could be in a world of hurt come January. Caterpillar is one of the top companies in the sector, with massive reach across the globe in an  industry where size matters. With the fiscal cliff coming, however, is this industrial titan still a good buy? Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in our brand new report. Just click here to access it now.

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