The fiscal cliff has dominated headlines for weeks, and most analysts suggest that today's roughly flat market open is the result of the ongoing impasse between Democrats and Republicans over tax and budget policy. But in the coming days, you'll really have to look beyond the wrangling to focus on what's happening in the economy. With reports on factory orders, consumer sentiment, and employment due out in the coming days, you can get an edge over cliff-obsessed investors by learning where the economy really stands.

Today, brief optimism from investors briefly took the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) beyond 13,000, although by 10:45 a.m. EST, the Dow had cut its gains to just 11 points at 12,976.

Once again, value investors appear to be picking up shares of the Dow's two most beaten-down technology companies: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which are both up more than 1%. A report from Bloomberg this morning notes that Intel's and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) attempts to market their Windows-powered tablet lines are being thwarted by their inability to ship many of them immediately. Moreover, PC makers haven't ramped up tablet or Ultrabook lines as quickly as Intel and Microsoft had hoped. During the critical holiday period, it's important for gifts to be readily available and shipped quickly, and a failure could spell disaster for both companies.

HP, meanwhile, continues to deal with fallout from its Autonomy writedown. Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch has created a website to present his case against HP's allegations of misconduct. For its part, HP will do its best to keep the episode confined to legal proceedings, but you can expect analysts and investors to remain hungry for information about the controversy.

Finally, Boeing (NYSE:BA) rose a quarter-percent after estimating that airlines will tap the credit markets to finance aircraft purchases with anticipated borrowing of more than $100 billion in 2013. That's all the more impressive given that tight credit conditions in Europe are hampering financing. For Boeing, it's critical to keep credit markets open in order to avoid having to extend credit itself to airlines, many of which have balance sheets that already sport substantial debt.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Intel and Microsoft. 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.