We're headed into the final month before the fiscal cliff apocalypse strikes, but don't tell the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) that. The index swung up and down throughout the day, but only by minor adjustments – the highs and lows of today's session only reached just over 30 points away from yesterday's close, and the Dow ended November on a quiet note in gaining just 3.7 points at the close. Dow members ended mixed, with about half picking up gains and the other half seeing shares fall. Let's go around the index.
Retail wins as tech lags
Retailers led the Dow higher today, as Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) posted the highest gains for any Dow stock, with shares up 1.7%. The big-box giant has had a good week, capitalizing big on the Web as part of Cyber Monday's $1.46 billion in online sales. With the fiscal cliff feared to have an impact on shopping this holiday season, however, Wal-Mart could see a decline in the short term in sales growth -- although for the long term, few retail stocks have withstood the ups and downs of the consumer market like this pick.
Wal-Mart actually hasn't had a good November, however, with the stock down more than 5% for the month. That's a far cry from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , November's best Dow stock, with shares up more than 10% over the month. That didn't help Cisco today, however, as the stock dropped 0.5%. Numerous tech stocks followed in its footsteps, with IBM (NYSE: IBM ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) losing1.2% and 0.8%, respectively.
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) managed to buck the trend, posting a slight gain despite having an absolutely horrific November. Shares of the chipmaker have lost more than 9% over the past month, hit by the double whammy of the declining PC market and the announced resignation of Intel's CEO, effective next May. With these two problems slated to hang around for some time, expect more volatility from Intel in early 2013 as this company looks to establish some solid footing going forward -- particularly with rivals such as Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) establishing themselves as powerful players in the mobile chipmaking game.
Base hits in health care
The health-care sector managed to round out a nice day despite Merck's (NYSE: MRK ) losses from pulling a European approval application for its bone cancer drug. Pfizer, (NYSE: PFE ) which faces a dilemma ahead in navigating the loss of patent exclusion on its blockbuster drug Lipitor, posted gains of 0.7%. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) also managed see shares gain 0.7%, with the medical juggernaut gaining FDA backing for its new tuberculosis treatment this week. J&J may be the best-placed health-care stock to navigate the fiscal cliff's uncertainty, with its reach spread across virtually the entire sector.
It was a sleepy day for the markets as a whole, but it's about to get a lot hotter with the fiscal cliff approaching fast. One stock that could suffer regardless of the cliff is November's worst Dow laggard, Intel. With the PC market maturing and rivals surging ahead in the mobile game, Intel faces a challenging climate in the future-but do its recent losses signal a great time to buy this semiconductor giant? In this premium research report on Intel, our analyst runs through all of the key topics 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.