The stock market has established a disturbing pattern recently. On several occasions recently, stocks have opened higher or risen steadily throughout the morning hours, only to give way to selling pressure later in the day. This morning, that trend continued, as an initial jump quickly turned into modest losses. Weighing on the market were a drop in retail sales and concerns that the Obama administration's initial negotiating position could make attempts to resolve issues associated with the fiscal cliff harder to solve. By 10:45 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) were down about 60 points.

On the earnings front, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) soared almost 7% after beating estimates for both earnings and revenue. Perhaps more important for investor confidence was that the company also gave guidance that was in line with what analysts were expecting. Despite another dour prediction from CEO John Chambers that Europe could get worse before it gets better, the overall change in tone is nice to hear.

On the downside, Home Depot (NYSE:HD) gave back some of its big gains from yesterday, dropping 2%. Retail sales trends affect Home Depot, but it's hard to lump the home improvement store in the same category as typical shopping-mall store chains. With the constant need for home supplies augmented by the impact of storms like Hurricane Sandy, Home Depot should thrive even in a sluggish economy.

Finally, Boeing (NYSE:BA) fell more than 1.6%. The company is considering a change to its pension system to help keep its pension plan's market fluctuations from affecting overall corporate earnings. Of more immediate concern is pressure from the Department of Defense to control costs while remaining willing to take on business risk. Although Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) and its F-35 program have been a particularly large lightning rod for scrutiny, plenty of Boeing defense projects will likely get similarly close looks, and Boeing must be ready to address concerns.

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