It's been a nasty week for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI), which have dropped 675 points since Election Day. After a big 185-point plunge yesterday, investors had hoped for some respite this morning. But even though inflation at the consumer level was relatively benign, some weakness in business activity, reported by the Philadelphia Fed and New York Fed, held the markets back. Combine that with a huge surge in unemployment claims after Hurricane Sandy, and stocks couldn't muster much of a recovery. By 10:45 a.m. EST, the Dow was actually down by 16 points.

On the earnings front, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) fell almost 4% after its third-quarter report. Although earnings rose 9% and the retailer provided a minor boost to full-year guidance, Wal-Mart's forecast for current-quarter net income fell short of what analysts were looking for. As the retailer goes head to head against online giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) for supremacy of the coming holiday season, the next month will be critical for Wal-Mart.

Yet despite the mixed economic news, some economically sensitive stocks performed reasonably well. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has risen 0.9% on news from the Mortgage Bankers Association that delinquent home loans fell to their lowest level in more than four years. Loans that were 90 days or more behind on payments fell to 7.03% in the third quarter, down by almost a full percentage point over the last year. That bodes well for B of A and its mortgage-banking peers going forward.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) has posted a 0.76% gain. Despite receiving an analyst downgrade last week, the construction equipment giant's eventual success relies on strength in emerging markets. Although everyone's focusing on the fiscal cliff in the U.S., growth in the global economy hinges on a number of other factors. If Caterpillar can capitalize on other nations' efforts to bolster growth, it can do well even if other U.S. stocks don't.

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