Why the Dow's Inching Down Before the Holiday

Even though investors continue to desperately await action from Washington on the fiscal cliff, few had expected any substantial progress over the long holiday weekend. With many businesses closed today and the stock market closing up shop early this afternoon, activity has been relatively muted, and there was little news to move markets. At around 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) were down 32 points, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 both posted similar drops of about 0.25%.

Two tech companies led the Dow's decliners. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) dropped nearly 2% as investors continue to question whether the tech giant will be able to get itself moving forward again in 2013. HP's woes owe partly to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , the other big Dow decliner today, which fell 1.5% as Windows 8 sales continue to disappoint investors in the software behemoth. With the failure of Windows 8 to reinvigorate sales of PCs, HP really needs to quickly move beyond its old core business and into more lucrative high-end services, and Microsoft needs to push forward with cloud-computing projects and tap into mobile trends in order to give itself a boost.

Outside the Dow, Radian Group (NYSE: RDN  ) soared 4%. The mortgage insurer reported last week that it got a one-year extension of approval from Freddie Mac for its Radian Mortgage Assurance subsidiary. The move allows the company to do business in a number of states and is an essential part of Radian's core business strategy as it continues to dig itself out from the wreckage of the housing bust.

Finally, Herbalife (NYSE: HLF  ) continued its downward spiral, falling another 6%. The company has been under attack from short-seller Bill Ackman, who has characterized the business as a pyramid scheme and has taken a massive short position. The company has denied Ackman's characterizations and plans to fight back, but so far, investors seem to agree with Ackman's position, with the shares having lost more than 40% of their value in just the past week and a half.

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