The string of record closes for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) continued today, but it's hard to think of today's three-point gain as anything more than a technicality. Broader market benchmarks all fell on the day, as tensions in Washington started to escalate once more as House Republicans announced their outline to reduce the budget deficit dramatically over the next three years. With a competing plan expected from the Senate soon, wrangling over the federal budget could continue for the foreseeable future, introducing yet another set of uncertainties for investors.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) suffered the biggest loss among Dow stocks, falling more than 1.5% as fears about recent weakness in industrial activity in China continue to challenge the company's long-term growth thesis. Nevertheless, while the Chinese economy may have to deal with decelerating growth, its growth rates will remain well above those of the developed world, and that should help give Caterpillar superior prospects compared to more domestically focused peers.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) also fell, losing almost 1% as an analyst at Nomura Securities said yesterday that the recent gains in GE's stock already reflected most of its positive future potential. Coming on the heels of the company's own warning in its annual report that political crises like the budget debate could lead to a reduced willingness among U.S. corporations to spend money on capital expenditures, investors need to consider whether GE's roughly 30% rise since last June has pushed the stock up too far too quickly.

Outside the Dow, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores (NASDAQ:SHOS) plunged nearly 13% after announcing that same-store sales fell 0.5% in its most recent quarter after adjusting for an extra week in this year's quarter. With the spinoff suffering from many of the same problems that parent Sears Holdings (OTC:SHLDQ) continues to face, the advantage that Sears Hometown has is that its small size makes it more nimble and able to adjust strategies to take advantage of changing conditions. If its move to scale back on consumer electronics succeeds, Sears Hometown may rebound sharply from today's losses in the long run.