Dow Treads Water Amid Fiscal Cliff Stalemate

Friday's session was again filled with head fakes over the fiscal cliff as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) bobbed and weaved to finished the day barely changed, up 3 points, or 0.03%. Little progress was made on the fiscal cliff negotiations as House Speaker John Boehner said the two parties had gotten "almost nowhere" on an agreement. Markets dipped on Boehner's words but recovered toward the end of the trading session. President Obama, meanwhile, left Washington to take his case for keeping middle-class tax cuts to an audience at a toy factory in Pennsylvania.

Consumer spending figures for October surprised the market with a slight drop of 0.2% in part because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy. The decline comes after a 0.8% jump in September. The only other piece of macro data came from the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, which was slightly below expectations at 50.4, though that number was improved from the 49.9 showing in September.

Back on the Dow, retailers won the day as Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) was up 1.7% and Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) gained 1.3%. Wal-Mart has been surrounded by controversy again recently, as some workers walked off the job on Black Friday, a group of warehouse employees have sued the company, and it's been named as a customer of a Bangladeshi factory where more than 100 workers were killed in a fire this week. However, the stock was up on optimism about this year's holiday season. According to one report, retail sales were up 12.8% for the Black Friday weekend. Home Depot, meanwhile, which is not exactly on most people's Christmas shopping list, seem to benefit from the continuing toll of Superstorm Sandy's damage. The home-improvement retailer could see an extended bump in sales due to the need for repairs and materials.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , on the other hand, was again a big loser, falling 1.2% as the market continued to absorb the news that PC sales fell sharply by 21% in the month following the release of Windows 8. Although it's trying to catch up with mobile, the Windows maker is still highly dependent on computer sales and will continue to suffer with its decline. Outside the Dow, Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM  ) fell nearly 10% after it said it expected a 4% decline in same-store sales in China this quarter. The announcement surprised investors as China been in growth engine for the KFC parent in recent years, and the news could signal a greater slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.

It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In this brand-new premium report on Microsoft, our analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, the challenges are many. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.


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