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With Congress out of session until tomorrow, weak U.S. holiday sales, and only five days remaining before the fiscal cliff arrives in full force, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) lost ground today, dropping 24 points, or 0.19%, to close at 13,114.
Brushing off paltry holiday retail sales growth -- the lowest since 2008 -- Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) continued its remarkable run, jumping more than 2.5%, to lead the Dow. Bank of America investors instead paid attention to a different indicator: The Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The index rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in October, nearly double the 0.4% rate seen in September. Financials should be among the first areas to benefit in the case of a large-scale housing recovery.
Leading the Dow's drop today was United Health (NYSE: UNH ) , which fell 1.1%. Despite trading in positive territory for 2012, the second half of the year has been quite unkind to the health insurer, and worries about lower Medicare outlays in a fiscal-cliff scenario have contributed to the stock's 7% decline in the past six months.
Outside the Dow, Chinese search engine Baidu's (NASDAQ: BIDU ) stock leapt nearly 5% on a leaked screenshot depicting the company's newest mobile voice search technology. Operationally similar to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) Siri, the software is reportedly called the Baidu Voice Assistant, and will be offered on Chinese cell phones in the future. There's no word yet on why the feature wasn't creepily given a rare human name.
BlackBerry producer Research in Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY ) , which, in recent years, has been pummeled by competition from mobile platforms run by Apple and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) , caught a break on Wednesday. At least its stock price -- down almost 20% on the year -- caught one. RIM surged more than 11%, as investors were excited by new pictures online of what is purportedly the newest BlackBerry model. The BlackBerry 10's official launch is set for Jan. 30, and its success is vitally important to get the company back in the mobile game.
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