What Drove the Dow's Thursday Gains

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The three major U.S. benchmarks all gained today, as the markets seemed to rise and fall with each new comment from a top diplomat talking about the fiscal cliff. By the end of the day, investors were mostly pleased with what they heard, and The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) rose back above the 13,000 mark again today, gaining 36 points, or 0.28%, to close at 13,021. 

Twenty-one of the 30 index members closed the day on a higher note, and at the head of the pack was United Health Group (NYSE: UNH  ) , which shot up 3%. The health-care provider's stock has ticked back up since its lows for the week on Wednesday morning, as investors hope the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) can be good for business.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , two of the largest tech companies in the Dow, were also, incidentally, the two worst performers today, falling nearly 3%, and 1.5% respectively. Intel was led lower by a downgrade from Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) , in which the investment bank lowered its price target for the stock by 20%, from $20 per share, to $16 per share. Microsoft's stock today was hit after it announced the pricing for its new Surface Pro 64GB tablet, set to debut in January. It will retail at $899 -- a bit on the pricey side for an unproven player in the tablet market. Investors also didn't rejoice in breaking research that indicated that Windows-powered PC sales stumbled 21% last month. Admittedly, a blowout holiday season would put many of those fears to rest (temporarily). 

One other reason that Intel may have fallen today actually had nothing to do with Intel itself. Rival chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) announced that, because it's sparse on cash, it will be selling nearly 60 acres of its Austin campus for $200 million -- only to lease it back from the new owner. This will provide the company with some fresh cash to revive its business and compete with more financially-sound chip makers -- like Intel.

When it comes to dominating markets, it doesn't get much better than Intel's position in the PC microprocessor arena. However, that market is maturing, and Intel finds itself in a precarious situation longer term if it doesn't find new avenues for growth. In this premium research report on Intel, our analyst runs through all of the key topics that investors should understand about the chip giant. Better yet, you'll continue to receive updates for an entire year! Click here now to learn more.

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