With no U.S. economic releases this morning, the market is relatively unchanged as investors continue to wait for clarity on the U.S. fiscal cliff. Yesterday, Republicans released an initial proposal for avoiding the fiscal cliff which the White House immediately dismissed. The proposal included $800 billion in new tax revenue -- half of what the White House is calling for -- and $600 billion in health care spending cuts over 10 years. The proposal also outlined a plan to slow spending on social security by changing how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. It will be interesting to see the final compromise Congress reaches. Until then, we sit and wait.
In other news, the past few months have seen numerous economic reports showing a steadily improving housing market. This morning Toll Brothers released earnings that reflected that growing strength. CEO Douglas Yearley, Jr. had this to say: "Pent-up demand, rising home prices, low interest rates, and improving consumer confidence motivated buyers to return to the housing market in FY 2012. As household formations accelerated and unsold home inventories dropped to record lows, the industry took further steps toward a sustained housing recovery."
With no new on the fiscal cliff, it's no surprise that the market is largely unchanged. Some stocks are trying to get the Dow to finish higher. Here are the top three.
Today's Dow leaders
Today's Dow leader is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) up 3.3%. HP has had a terrible year: It's down 49% year to date thanks to two $8 billion-plus writedowns, a declining market for PCs, and accusations of fraud against the former CEO of one of its acquisitions. With such a beaten-down stock, value investors are getting interested, and some believe HP is a steal.
Second for the day is Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) up 1.7%. Many companies are taking advantage of the low tax rates on dividends, which will likely change next year. While many companies are paying special dividends, Wal-Mart decided that rather than pay a special dividend, it would move its regular quarterly dividend from early January to late December. The stock goes ex-dividend tomorrow, and some investors are getting in to collect the payout. The retailing behemoth reported earnings on Nov. 15 that met analyst expectations. However, the stock was down 4% that day as the company lowered its guidance for the fourth quarter. The stock has recovered, however, since Wal-Mart put up a solid performance over the Black Friday weekend. Analysts hope the momentum from its early holiday success will carry the retailer through the rest of the season.
Third for the day is Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) , up 1.3%. Like HP, Intel has been beaten down by the declining PC market. Unlike HP, Intel hasn't made any huge, horrendous acquisitions, choosing instead to return cash to shareholders through buybacks and dividends. The stock faces its own challenges but investors are drawn by its 4.6% dividend yield.
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