What to Watch As the Dow Moves Into December

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) , up nearly 7% on the year, enters December on tenuous ground as investors worry about the possible fiscal cliff coming in January. With uncertainty in the air, let's look at a few stocks in the Dow that have performed very well (or very poorly) that investors will want to keep an eye on in December.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , the top performer in the Dow thus far, is up nearly 80% in 2012. The bank has recovered from a sluggish 2011 that saw Warren Buffett invest in the business in a deal that was largely seen as a strategic move to restore confidence in the bank's financials. Looking forward, Bank of America recently announced that it won't institute new fees that would have affected more than 10 million customers; perhaps the announcement will help Bank of America's reputation with consumers.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) has been a dog of late, with the botched Autonomy acquisition of 2011 coming back to bite it in its recent $8.8 billion writedown. Of that amount, $5 billion was attributed specifically to the Autonomy acquisition last year. HP is down nearly 50% on the year, making it the worst-performing stock of the Dow by a long shot.

Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , the second best performer in 2012 -- up 54% -- will see if it can continue its run in December. The home-improvement retailer has continued to rise in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as people rushed to repair their homes and businesses.

But perhaps one of the stocks investors will pay the most attention to as the year closes out is Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , which has recently seen the departure of a high-level executive and the firing of a manager of Apple's maps division. Apple's new mapping software has been panned by users and is an uncharacteristic weakness for the company that only recently emerged as a threat to its business. 

There is absolutely no argument that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded, with more than 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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