As investors prepared to take a short break from regular trading, they couldn't help but be reminded of the uncertainty that will dominate markets for the next week. It's almost exactly one week from now that the U.S. will potentially be plunging over the fiscal cliff, and with significant negotiations taking time off to observe the Christmas holiday, investors are left with a lump of coal for now. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) fell 0.39% in today's shortened trading day, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) lost 0.22%.
Home Depot (NYSE:HD) was one of the few winners today as its strong run in 2012 continued. The stock is up 0.41% on the day, and is the second biggest gainer on the Dow this year. An improved housing market has helped the stock, but questions remain as we head for the fiscal cliff. The good news for Home Depot vs. home builders is that the company will still benefit from existing home sales and renovations, which seem to be picking up steam.
McDonalds (NYSE:MCD) fell 1.1% today after a probe by the Chinese government into Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) chicken. The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration is looking into the amount of antibiotics in Yum's chicken and there's at least some fear that the same problems could affect McDonalds. Yum! was found to have chicken within limits, but that may be because of increased scrutiny on the industry, so the risk is mitigated for now.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is down another 1.4% today, continuing a disappointing 2012 for the company. A report from analysts at Baird indicates that Surface sales have been less than impressive. The device is now on sale at Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) stores, but channel checks at both chains indicate weak consumer demand.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Microsoft. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
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