The Dow Holds Steady Ahead of the Election

Following a trading week that was shortened due to Hurricane Sandy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, (INDEX: ^DJI) is flat as investors breathlessly await the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. It's safe to say that all eyes, from Main Street to Wall Street, are on Washington. As of 2:20 p.m. EST, the Dow is holding steady at a slim loss of 12 points. Stocks are split roughly 50-50 between winners and losers, and few big names are making waves today. Let's get you caught up on what's moving today's biggest movers.

Election season
The end of the week will probably move markets more than today and tomorrow, with potential leadership transitions looming in both the U.S. and China -- whose economies collectively account for more than $20 trillion in GDP. There's been a trend of Dow shake-ups in the weeks after the elections, so keep your eyes open for volatility in the near future.

Although last week's big hurricane may have come and gone, Sandy's still sending ripples through today's markets. Home Depot (NYS: HD) ranks among the top Dow leaders as shares of the retail home-improvement giant rise more than 0.7%. There's a lot of cleanup to do in the Northeast, and while Sandy will hurt the greater economy, the storm presented a great opportunity for Home Depot to sell generators and post-disaster supplies. The stock's now trading near a 52-week high and could easily exceed that mark.

Political fallout
A select few Dow laggards have made some noise as well. The financial sector has done the worst today -- and pulled the Dow down with it. Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , JPMorgan (NYS: JPM) , and American Express (NYS: AXP) are each down at least 0.9%. Bank of America, today's second-largest loser, was recently sued over accusations of losing $1.6 billion in securities, which certainly won't help the stock. However, uncertainty over the outcome of the election is likely what's weighing on this sector: Financials have much to gain (or lose) depending on which candidate wins the White House.

Politics are also likely pressuring today's biggest loser, Unitedhealth Group (NYS: UNH) , which is currently trading down 1.5%. As questions continue to abound over the Affordable Care Act and its fate, investors seem jittery about the outcome of the presidential election.

This tight presidential race won't tell investors anything conclusive until tomorrow night. Until then, hold on to your hat and prepare to weather out this political storm.

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Dan Carroll has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and UnitedHealth Group. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend American Express Company, The Home Depot, and UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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