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The Dow Now: Hewlett-Packard Sets New Three-Month High

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Alcoa and Caterpillar were also up on the day.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL After a strong surge yesterday fueled by the resolution to the fiscal cliff saga, stocks edged down slightly in mid-Thursday trading, as investors partook in some profit-taking and also turned their attention to the next federal budget issue, the debt ceiling.

"With President Obama having signed the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act, investors and the country now look forward to the next battle in Washington that will be coming up, extension of the [$16.4 trillion] federal debt ceiling," wrote Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davidson Companies, in a note, according to MarketWatch.

"We expect to see some federal government spending cuts, but not major entitlement reform, during the upcoming debate in Washington," he added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) was down 0.02% to 13,410.34 points as of 12:04 p.m. EST.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) was the day's leading Dow gainer, jumping 4.16% to $15.65 after making an impressive 5.4% advance in the previous session, setting a new three-month high in the process. Investors continue to be heartened by reports that the beleaguered company may be shedding its underperforming parts, such as its PC and printer divisions.

Alcoa (NYSE:AA) also consolidated its near-4% increase yesterday, improving 1.28% to $9.11. The company will kick off the new earnings season next Monday and analysts forecast that it will report a year-to-year profit for its fourth quarter, even if revenue is expected to slide 6%.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) gained 1.35% to $94.76 while shares of Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) also edged up 0.66% to $20.48 after RBC Capital upgraded the stock to Outperform from Sector Perform, and raised its price target to $24 from $21.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) led all decliners, sliding 2.82% to $53.00 after a Hold from Buy downgrade by Deutsche Bank. WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), which received a similar downgrade, also fell.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) also dipped 0.88% to $68.63 after competitor Family Dollar Stores (NYSE:FDO) (-11.43%) reported poorer-than-expected quarterly results that highlighted lowered consumers' discretionary spending in December.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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