The Dow Takes Another Step Toward the Cliff

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) spent the day hovering near yesterday's close as investors awaited any news of the fiscal cliff, finishing down 14 points, or 0.1%.

In response to the Congressional Republicans' counteroffer yesterday, President Obama said there would be no compromise on the fiscal cliff without raising marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. The president, however, seemed willing to raise them to a lower rate than they were under the Clinton administration, at 39.6%. The Republicans had not included plans to raise those tax rates in their proposal.

On the housing front, market-watchers found new reason to believe in the continuing recovery as Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL  ) reported revenues up 48% and a 75% increase in contracts. Shares of the homebuilder opened up 4% but finished down for the day. Data from CoreLogic also showed that home prices rose 6.3% in October from a year ago, the biggest gain in more than six years.

Looking at the Dow, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) shot up 5.1% today on no company-specific news. The stock has been especially volatile since revealing an $8.8 billion writedown on its Autonomy acquisition, and it may be riding Dell's coattails after Goldman Sachs upgraded the company yesterday. Dell is up 6.8% in the last two days, while HP has gained nearly 10% in the last week.

Shares of Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) were essentially flat, but the entertainment giant signed a major deal today with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) that sent its shares up 14%. Netflix outbid Liberty Media's Starz for exclusive rights to show Disney movies about eight months after they open in theaters. Starting in 2016, Netflix will also be able to stream recently released Disney films. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal estimates it to be worth $300 million a year to Disney. If that assessment is correct, that could be a steep price tag for Netflix, which has struggled to turn a profit in recent quarters as it expands abroad. With about $3.5 billion in revenue in its past 12 months, the $300 million represents a large chunk of Netflix's cash flow.

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