Stocks are mixed today amid a flurry of conflicting news emanating out of Washington and China. At roughly halfway through the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.76%) is down by 23 points, or 0.17%.
Asian stocks were up considerably on news that China's economy is evidencing signs of strength. The HSBC China Purchasing Managers' Index came in higher for the second straight month. The preliminary reading for December was 50.9, an improvement over last month's 50.5 -- anything above 50 indicates expansion.
On the domestic front, meanwhile, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner met again yesterday, as the two political parties work to iron out a compromise over the fiscal cliff, a series of tax hikes and spending cuts that take effect at the beginning of next year in the absence of Congressional action. According to both sides, the meeting was "frank" and the "lines of communication remain open." Politicians have roughly two more weeks to find a solution before the deadline. In the absence of an agreement, economists predict that the economy will enter into a recession.
Shares of Apple (AAPL 4.08%) are continuing their downward trend today thanks to a price downgrade by an analyst at UBS. While analyst Steve Milunovich maintained his buy rating on the stock, he trimmed his price target to $700 from $780. According to Forbes, Milunovich noted a number of reasons for the move. Among others, the possibility that the iPad Mini will cannibalize sales of the larger iPad, and that "supply chain checks indicate the iPhone build rate is falling to 25 million units for the March quarter."
Shares of Best Buy (BBY 2.36%) are also trading lower today -- 16% lower, that is. It was reported yesterday that the electronic retailer's founder, Richard Schulze, was preparing a bid to take the struggling company private. This sent the company's stock soaring. While the bid was expected to come today, merger arbitrageurs will now have to wait a few more months. The company's board has now extended the deadline by which Schulze must submit a bid until the end of February.
In terms of Dow stocks, the technology components are leading the gainers, with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ 5.38%) up 0.76%, followed closely behind by Intel (INTC 2.46%) and Microsoft (MSFT 2.76%). As my colleague Alex Dumortier pointed out this morning, HP's former CEO Leo Apotheker released a statement yesterday saying that the company's board of directors shares responsibility for the disastrous acquisition of Autonomy, a U.K.-based software firm that HP acquired under Apotheker's watch in 2011. At the end of the third quarter, HP took an $8.8 billion writedown on the deal. According to Alex: "He's absolutely right -- which is unfortunate for current HP CEO Meg Whitman, who was on the board at the time."