Why the Dow Plunged 160 Points Today


You've heard the term "30 out of 30," or some variation of it, before. "Thirty out of 30 doctors agree." "She's made 30 out of her last 30 free throws." "Thirty out of 30 people found the following review helpful." Normally, hearing about such a high percentage of the occurrence of Thing X, we assume that Thing X is a good thing. Well, this time it isn't, as 30 out of 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell today, as the blue chip index plummeted 158 points, or 1.21%, to close at 12,938.

The cause for the systematic fall today was once again the looming fiscal cliff. With only one business day remaining before $607 billion in spending cuts and tax increases kick in, Wall Street was unabashedly pessimistic -- so pessimistic that chemical powerhouse DuPont , down 0.8% on the day, was one of the Dow's top performers.

Among the more notable laggards, Hewlett-Packard occupied a familiar position, leading the lowly Dow in daily losses. Its stock -- the Dow's worst performer in 2012 -- tumbled 2.6% on news that the Justice Department is investigating the botched 2011 acquisition of the software company Autonomy, which HP threw under the bus in November when the company took a $8.8 billion writedown and blamed the impairment charge on "serious accounting improprieties" by Autonomy.

Despite the pervasive gloom and doom in the markets, there were still a few stocks that rose today. MEMC Electronic Materials , a producer of wafers for semiconductors, added nearly 3% on news that Canadian Solar is buying four of its solar-power projects. Recently, on Dec. 9, the wealth management firm Collins Stewart upgraded MEMC stock to "buy" from "neutral" and maintained the company's $5.50 price target.

Shares of business services company R.R. Donnelley & Sons also saw uncharacteristic gains today, rallying 1.8% a day after the company announced that it will replace its COO, John Paloian, effective Dec. 31. The company had a rough 2012, memorably botching the release of Google's third-quarter results. The pre-emptive midday reveal triggered a massive sell-off, causing trading in Google shares to be halted.

The massive wave of mobile computing has done much to unseat the major players in the PC market, including venerable technology names like Hewlett-Packard. However, HP's rapidly shifting its strategy under the new leadership of CEO Meg Whitman. But does this make HP one of the least-appreciated turnaround stories on the market, or is this a minor blip on its road to irrelevance? The Motley Fool's technology analyst details exactly what investors need to know about HP in our new premium research report. Just click here now to get your copy today.

The article Why the Dow Plunged 160 Points Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

John Divine has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. You can follow him on Twitter, @divinebizkid, and on Motley Fool CAPS, @TMFDivine.The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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