Good News Can't Pull the Markets From the Edge of the Cliff


With the fiscal-cliff deadline looming in every investor's mind, even some truly positive economic data released today hasn't been able to help the markets move higher. The most important number released today was the revised U.S. GDP growth rate, which was raised to 3.1% during the third quarter. Additionally, the National Association of Realtors announced that total existing-home sales for November rose 6% from the previous month and were 14.5% higher than at this stage last year.

But because no real progress has been made to stop the U.S. from falling over the cliff, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is flat. As of 12:58 p.m. EST, the Dow is up just six points to 13,258 points. The majority of the Dow's 30 components are up slightly, but three of the biggest losers thus far today are Merck , Caterpillar , and Intel .

So why are they down?
Shares of pharmaceutical giant Merck are trading lower again today because for the second day in a row, the company has announced that a drug failed to clear certain hurdles during trials. Today that drug was Tredaptive, a cholesterol drug which had already been approved for use in Europe. Merck will no longer seek U.S. approval and is recommending that doctors abroad stop prescribing it to new patients. Merck's share price is down about 2.5% today.

Shares of Caterpillar are down by 1.1% today after the company released November dealer sales statistics. While sales show growth in every location around the world and in every business segment, the problem is that the growth in November was the slowest the company has experienced all year in most areas it does business. Worldwide sales grew 5% -- the slowest rate all year, while the highest was back in January, when the company realized a 27% growth rate. The Asia-Pacific market grew 2%; the Europe, Africa and Middle East market grew 3%; and the U.S. market grew 3%. Latin America spiked 15%, its highest rate all year and one of the few regions that grew faster than in previous months.

Shares of Intel are trading lower by 0.6% after the company was downgraded by an analyst at Evercore Partners. Analyst Patrick Wang lowered his estimates for Intel's fourth-quarter revenue from $13.6 billion to $13.4 billion and dropped the profits from $0.46 per share to $0.44. He also reduced his 2013 full-year revenue estimates from $54 billion to $53.4 billion and revised full-year EPS from $1.90 per share down to $1.85. Wang believes the struggling PC market will continue limping along in 2013, which would affect the chip makers like Intel.

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