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The Dow Now: Home Depot Surges on Strong Results; Microsoft Slides on Exec Departure

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Verizon and AT&T were also up on the day.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Another trading day, another day of uncertainty over the fiscal cliff. US stocks continued to fluctuate between gains and losses in mid-Tuesday trading, with strong earnings from Home Depot (NYSE:HD) unable to negate worries about the US economy.

"We're back to focusing on macroeconomic issues, with people trying to position themselves ahead of the fiscal cliff, especially with Europe still a threat," Doug DePietro, head of trading at Evercore Partners, told Reuters. "I don't feel like there's an underlying bid on the market."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) was up 0.43% to 12,870.18 points as of 12:00 p.m. EST.

Unsurprisingly, Home Depot jumped 4.09% to $63.66 after reporting better-than-expected third quarter results. The home improvement retailer posted earnings of $0.74 a share on sales of $18.13 billion. The consensus of analysts polled by FactSet was for the Atlanta-based company to earn $0.70 a share on sales of $17.9 billion in the third quarter.

Home Depot also upped its adjusted per-share 2012 outlook to $3.03, with a sales increase of 5.2%. It had previously forecast earnings of $2.95 a share on a sales gain of 4.6%.

AT&T (NYSE:T) was also up 1.30% to $34.31. It was reported last week that AT&T will become the first US wireless carrier to offer subsidized wireless data subscription plans for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad. Now that Sprint (NYSE:S) is shutting down its Nextel network and aiming to convert Nextel customers to its push-to-talk services, AT&T is also hoping to lure some of those Nextel customers to its own push-to-talk products.

Rival telecommunications company Verizon (NYSE:VZ) also gained 1.39% to $43.15. Verizon said last night that its Verizon Wireless unit will distribute $8.5 billion in dividends to Verizon and its partner Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was far and away the biggest Dow decliner, sliding 2.61% to $27.26. The tech giant earlier announced that its Windows President Steven Sinofsky would be leaving the company merely weeks after Windows 8 was launched, prompting worries of internal tension.

"We hold Sinofsky in high regard as a technical visionary and his ability to deliver complex products on a timely basis," said Nomura Research analyst Rick Sherlund in a note.

Microsoft's announcement "implies some tension within Microsoft and references the need for collaboration," he added.

Investors likely were concerned, too, after it was revealed yesterday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that initial sales of its Surface tablet have been "modest."

Twitter: @sterlingwong
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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