Don't let the market fool you today. Despite the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 72 points, or 0.56%, as of 2:55 p.m. EST, virtually all of the economic news reported today has been positive.
All signs point to progress
All indications from the Black Friday weekend point to higher retail sales. Consumer confidence is at a four-year high. Housing values continue their ascent. And excluding automobiles and airplanes, durable-goods orders increased for the second consecutive month in October.
What appears to be holding down the market? Two words: fiscal cliff. Absent Congressional action, an estimated $600 billion in tax hikes and government spending cuts will take effect this upcoming January. While things appeared to be headed in the right direction prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, little progress has been reported since then.
Despite the angst, in an interview with Charlie Rose set to air tonight, Warren Buffet, the Omaha-based billionaire and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A), struck a typically wise tone by saying that even "if you guaranteed me that [we'd go over the fiscal cliff], I wouldn't sell a share of stock today."
Individual company news
In individual company news, shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are down today after it was reported that Richard Williamson, the executive in charge of the company's troubled map app, was fired by senior vice president Eddy Cue. The move follows a wider shakeup effected at the end of October in which two senior leaders were dismissed, while a bevy of junior executives were promoted.
It was also reported today that Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), the casino company led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, will pay Adelson, the company's largest shareholder, a special dividend amounting to $1.2 billion. The decision is set to take effect next month ahead of a widely anticipated hike in the applicable tax rate for dividends.
The drama at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) continues to escalate. Shares of the technology giant got slammed last week after the company reported worse-than-expected quarterly earnings. The disappointment was due, in large part, to an $8.8 billion goodwill writedown related to HP's 2011 acquisition of U.K.-based software company Autonomy.
HP's CEO, Meg Whitman, claimed last week that an internal investigation revealed that the deal was tainted with fraud and misrepresentation on Autonomy's part -- a claim that has been disputed by Autonomy's founder and former CEO, Michael Lynch. Today, HP said its investigators have uncovered tangible evidence of improper accounting.
Finally, while he doesn't have any official sway, Warren Buffet went on the record in the interview mentioned above to say that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) -- the nation's largest bank by assets -- would be a "terrific" Treasury Secretary. Buffett told Charlie Rose, "I think he'd be terrific, because ... if we did run into problems in the markets then I think he would actually be the best person you could have in the job."
The Foolish bottom line
Fiscal cliff or not, it's great to have an executive running your company who can deal with it either way. And as I noted earlier, there's no one better-situated to navigate through these choppy waters than Warren Buffett. To learn whether or not you should invest in Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, I strongly urge you to download our new in-depth report on the blue-chip favorite. In it, you'll find a number of reasons to buy it, as well as the main risks facing investors who own it now. To access your own copy instantly, simply click here now.
John Maxfield has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.