Everybody knows just how important the fiscal cliff is to the nation's economy. But investors in particular seem almost obsessed by every tiny news item related to the tax increases set to take effect at the beginning of 2013. Initially, negative comments from Warren Buffett appeared responsible for sending the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) to a 100-point loss early in the session. Yet the market turned around after less pessimistic comments from House Majority Leader John Boehner and President Obama, and by the end of the day, the Dow finished up more than 100 points.
Remaining in the spotlight among Dow stocks was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which rose 3% to wipe out yesterday's plunge. The move came despite a bond-rating downgrade from Moody's, which cut its rating from A3 to Baa1. Citing what it called "execution challenges," Moody's still has confidence that the company will be able to remain a leader in the industry. But the move serves as an important reminder of the competitive challenges HP faces even once it gets its house in order.
Chevron (NYSE:CVX) had a nice up-move, jumping more than 2%. The company made the highest bid in a U.S. government auction of drilling rights off the coast of Texas, paying $17.2 million for a single tract. It also spent the most in total of any company among the winning bidders of 116 different tracts, paying $56 million and narrowly beating out ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). With production levels falling, Chevron needs opportunities like this to try to restore older wells elsewhere.
Finally, American Express (NYSE:AXP) saw gains of almost 2%. Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pointed to news that AmEx had successfully exchanged almost $2 billion in debt for new notes with maturities three to four years further into the future. Locking in financing is important, but the true test for AmEx will come from whether consumer spending rises and its attempts to capture lower-end customers through its Bluebird card initiative pan out.