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The Dow Ignores Good News and Remains Flat

Good economic news -- both in the U.S. and in China -- can't shake the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) out of its fiscal-cliff-induced slump. The index hasn't budged in the afternoon session so far, down just five points as of 2:20 p.m. EST. Dow stocks are roughly split between risers and losers, but there's still plenty of activity from the best and worst stocks of the day.

Good news is no news
China reported rising industrial output and retail sales today, and the U.S. economy joined in with increased factory output and softening consumer prices. Don't tell the Dow that, though, because the market has completely ignored the good news so far on the day. Everyone's watching and waiting or the slightest bit of news from Capitol Hill, where fiscal-cliff negotiations continue.

While the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC  ) isn't having a great day, tech stocks on the Dow aren't doing terribly. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) ranks near the top of the index, up 1%, while Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) has seen its stock rise 0.5%. Fellow PC stalwart Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) is down almost 1% for the day. HP's volatility makes it a stock to steer clear from, even though the shares' 45% year-to-date loss makes for a tempting purchase. Between its Autonomy fraud accusations and its ongoing attempt to shift away from the dying PC market, it's tough to find many good things to say about this beleaguered company.

Two companies facing danger from the fiscal cliff are also having good days, however. Industrial giants Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) and Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) rank near the top of the leaderboard with shares up 1.1% and 1.7%, respectively. These two companies could see a major downturn to start the new year if the fiscal cliff comes to pass, as its anticipated blow to the economy would jeopardize business activity. However, if Capitol Hill can come to a resolution, Caterpillar in particular could be a bargain for an otherwise solid company: Its stock is down 6% for the year.

Among today's top laggards, Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) and American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) have both had bad days, falling 1% and 1.3% respectively. Merck has had a bad few past days: The stock is down 4% since Wednesday's open. CEO Ken Frazier's comments that the fiscal cliff's potential impact on pharmaceutical prices could seriously dent research and development haven't helped, either.

Merck's falling today, and the company will have its own problems to deal with in the near future. Will Merck crumble under its own weight, or will it continue to pay dividends to investors for another century? To find out whether this pharma giant has the stamina to keep its Bunsen burners alight, grab your copy of our brand-new premium research report today. Our senior biotech analyst, Brian Orelli, Ph.D., walks you through both the opportunities and threats facing Merck, and the report comes with a full 12 months of updates. Claim your copy now by clicking here.

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