With so many investors nervous about the fiscal cliff, the last thing the market needed was for billionaire Warren Buffett to express his doubts about whether lawmakers could get a deal done by the end of 2012. Despite Buffett's saying that Congress would eventually reach a compromise, stocks opened lower and then plunged after poor new-home sales data cast the recovery into doubt. After sinking more than 100 points, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) managed to claw back to just a three-point decline by 10:45 a.m. EST.
As often happens on days with poor economic data, financial stocks took the biggest hit, with Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) off about 1% each. Interestingly, Buffett suggested yesterday that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon would be a good potential leader for the Treasury Department in the event of another financial crisis, and as current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is expected to step down, an Obama administration move to name Dimon would go a long way toward restoring confidence that anti-business regulation won't dominate the Washington agenda in the coming years.
3M (NYSE:MMM) rose about a quarter-percent as the company announced it had successfully completed its tender offer for Ceradyne. 3M's $35 per-share bid for the specialty ceramics maker should give 3M a chance to show its ability to innovate with potential applications for defense, power generation, and other industrial uses.
Finally, Travelers (NYSE:TRV) fell about half a percent. With insured losses due to Hurricane Sandy now pegged at $16 billion to $22 billion industrywide, investors will have to wait to see just how hard the storm hits Travelers' financials. Already, earnings estimates for the current quarter have plunged from $1.78 per share before the storm to just $0.32 per share, reflecting the possibility of substantial losses from Sandy.