The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) continues to slide after another day filled with political efforts no one really believes will pan out, and is drawing very close to the 1,400 mark today after a 1.1% decline. One day after a politically motivated wild ride saw bulls charge in on the hopes that something might get done, it's becoming increasingly apparent that nothing will. Market participants of all stripes are now reacting by stepping back, hoping for a resolution but not expecting one until some indeterminate point in January -- if not much later. Late-afternoon trading pushed the index sharply lower as Washington's failure became clear.

No one component of the S&P had a truly awful day, but Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) led the index lower, with a 4.6% and 2.5% decline, respectively. Both high-tech manufacturers have seen more than their fair share of problems this year. AMD lost a long-term design and engineering VP to Samsung yesterday, and a Forbes  feature (also published yesterday afternoon) calling for CEO Rory Read's ouster does nothing to improve investors' perceptions of a company on the ropes. HP's abysmal Autonomy acquisition continues to be a stone around its neck, and reports that the Department of Justice is now investigating that deal only adds to the weight.

J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) also slid 2.8%, dropping later in the day despite little real news. That might be the problem -- investors are still waiting for its holiday sales results . The good news that J.C. Penney's site was the 10th most popular e-commerce destination for the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas means nothing without real data on real sales -- and there was a vast discrepancy between 10th place and e-commerce leader (NASDAQ:AMZN). Show us the money, J.C. Penney!

J.C. Penney's slide is more embarrassing in light of the strong performances of both Macy's (NYSE:M) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), which were among the leading S&P 500 gainers today. Macy's site was the fifth most-popular on the same Experian tracker that placed J.C. Penney 10th, but there wasn't that much of a difference in the actual number of visits. Still, Macy's and Nordstrom have been doing better than J.C. Penney, which is in the unprofitable dumps right now.

Alex Planes has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.