The Dow Rises, While Tech Plummets

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It's a good end to the week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) . Economic news released earlier this morning sent the index up from the start, and currently the Dow sits on a 48-point gain. Most stocks on the Dow are up, with several rising by more than 1% -- but don't tell the lagging tech sector that. With the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC  ) down a half a percent, it's been a bad day for tech stocks on the Dow.

Economic news aplenty
This morning's unemployment report pushed stocks higher with a dose of ostensibly good news: The unemployment rate fell to 7.7% for November. Before you put too much faith in this, however, some gains were to be expected entering the holiday shopping season (retail employment jumped by 53,000). Additionally, as fellow Fool Dan Dzombak pointed out earlier today, a reduction in number of people actively seeking work also pushed employment down.

That report was followed by some sorely disappointing news: Consumer sentiment dropped by nearly eight points in December, down markedly from multiyear highs. With the fiscal cliff set to greatly impact individuals, it seems consumers are finally starting to take notice.

Dow stocks set to be heavily affected by the cliff are having mixed days, however. While Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) leads all Dow laggards, falling 1.3% so far, manufacturing giant Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) actually ranks near the top of the index, up 1.5%. The performance of both stocks is tied heavily to economic activity, and with the fiscal cliff set to take GDP down a notch, the first half of 2013 could be rough for Caterpillar and Alcoa should Congress fail to change course.

Today's real loser is the tech sector, however. Another bad day for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) is dragging down the entire Nasdaq, and the contagion has spread to the Dow. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) rank among the top Dow laggards with respective losses of 1.2% and 0.7%. Between the tepid launch of the Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and November's 11% drop in video game sales -- an area in which Microsoft operates heavily -- it's been a rough recent go for the company.

Today's losses are just one more bad day in three months of frustration for Microsoft investors. Despite a lukewarm reception for Windows 8 and the Surface tablet, however, Microsoft still has the chance to capitalize in a big way on these new releases. 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 be sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.

Defying the drop
There are few other Dow laggards of note, but one tech stock has managed to avoid today's pitfalls. IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) ranks near the top of the Dow, up about 1%. Other leaders on the index include financials, with JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) up 2.2% and 1.7%, respectively.

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