Dow Dips as Congress Plays the Biggest Game of Chicken

Remember how little fun the Lehman Brothers collapse brought us in 2008 as the financial crisis kicked off and the markets began their quick descent? I remember, and it was zero fun. That's what has the markets a bit rattled as the the world's largest borrower inches closer to default unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks. Bloomberg reports that our government's $12 trillion of outstanding debt is 23 times the amount Lehman owed when it filed for bankruptcy -- imagine the potential impact federal default would have on the global economy.

Surely Congress will not allow such a globally devastating event to take place, but when you play with fire there's always a chance to get burned. Look for markets to remain volatile while the government plays the riskiest game of chicken ever.

Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is trading down 0.62% late in trading. Here are the biggest movers.

On a day with few winners, AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) are the Dow's two biggest gainers, trading 1.07% and 0.86% higher, respectively. Both may be enjoying the recent sales success of Apple's new iPhone 5s and 5c and hoping the approaching holiday season will bring even more store traffic.

AT&T is also pushing more content on its U-verse App for smartphones and tablets. The company today launched more than 100 live channels for both mobile applications with 20 available outside of your home. The additional channels are a part of a more expensive U-verse TV package, and could help drive revenue and margins if successful.

"By making live TV content available across devices we're enabling our customers to watch TV on their terms when and where they want it," said Mel Coker, chief marketing officer of AT&T Home Solutions, according to Morningstar. "U-verse has always been about delivering a TV experience built around our customers, and this enhancement gives them even more flexibility and control."

Boeing's (NYSE: BA  ) stock has been flying high recently, especially after the company raised its 20-year forecast for global commercial aircraft demand. Today, however, brought bad news for Boeing investors and the stock is trading 0.49% lower.

Boeing has dominated the Japanese commercial aviation market for decades, keeping major rival Airbus in the background. That changed today when Japan Airlines, or JAL, announced its decision to buy $9.75 billion worth of Airbus planes; this is a shocker considering that Boeing has claimed every single JAL contract over the last half century, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"We have had a long-standing relationship -- it's a heartbreak," Kostya Zolotusky, managing director of capital markets and leasing at Boeing Capital, the Journal reported.

Outside the Dow, General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) is making headlines as it plans to expand its online shopping program. The program, called Shop-Click-Drive, is aimed toward shoppers who prefer to avoid the showroom and are savvy with online purchasing. It's a very intriguing move, and one that will test state franchise laws that protect dealers' role in vehicle purchases. As e-commerce continues to grow this will be a situation to which more companies must adapt.

I think the upside of e-commerce is limited in the automotive industry. Consumers need to see, feel, and test drive a vehicle more than other products, making it harder for manufacturers to take over in the way that Amazon.com pummeled brick-and-mortar stores. That said, if this online program can improve the speed of negotiating, choosing options, and receiving trade-in value information, it could improve customer satisfaction; that's a win for companies with a battered reputation similar to GM's.

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