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Stock Market Today: As Fiscal Cliff Talks Begin, Stocks Reel in Fear

The stock market today opened lower on the first day of official fiscal cliff negotiations. The markets have been pressured down all week by worries that no deal will be reached, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 losing over 2.5%.

Not even a new report claiming that White House officials are in advanced talks to replace the sequester cuts could lift the market today.

  • Fiscal cliff deal could be close- As the president meets with Congressional leaders today, there is a new report out hinting that a deal involving partially going off the fiscal cliff is in the works. The Wall Street Journal reported today (Friday) that White House officials have discussed a plan where smaller spending cuts and fewer tax increases would be made. The idea is to postpone the majority of the cliff and have "targeted" cuts and tax increases. Basically this would delay making tough decisions on the deficit, including actually making major spending cuts, overhauling the tax code, and restructuring Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Instead of kicking the can down the road again, going off the fiscal cliff is something that Money Morning Global Investing Strategist Martin Hutchinson thinks is a good idea. On going off the cliff he says, "Contrary to all of the media caterwauling, that's not a dreadful fate. In fact, it is exactly what we ought to be doing, since it solves 77% of the deficit problem in one fell swoop." To see his full column, click here.
  • Strike pushes Hostess Brands into bankruptcy- In what may be the saddest economic news of the day, Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Ho Ho's and Wonder Bread, announced it's going bankrupt. The Irving, TX-based company said that the closing was a result of a nationwide strike and that nearly all of the 18,500 workers will lose their jobs as the company shuts down 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, and 570 outlet stores nationwide. "Many people have worked incredibly long and hard to keep this from happening, but now Hostess Brands has no other alternative than to begin the process of winding down and preparing for the sale of our iconic brands," CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a letter to employees posted on the company website." The company said it will try to sell its snack cake and bread business with the hope of reviving such brands as Twinkie, Wonder Bread, and a few others.

Heading into the last four hours of trading this week, here are three stocks that are making investors miserable today, plus one that's soaring on a structural move:

  • Dynavax Technologies Corp. (Nasdaq: DVAX) is getting crushed today after the FDA denied approval of its Hepatitis B drug, Heplisav. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee approved the drug's efficacy but voted 8-5 that, "there was insufficient data toadequatelysupport the safety of Heplisav." DVAX stock is down 50% in early trading.
  • Sears Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD) reported a smaller-than-expected third-quarter loss yesterday afternoon, but the stock is still tanking today. That's because the key retail metric, same-store sales, continues to decline and overall the company's quarterly net loss was greater than it was a year ago. SHLD stock is down almost 15% today.
  • Dial Global Inc. (Nasdaq: DIAL) is today's biggest loser due to the fact that the company announced it would voluntarily delist from Nasdaq's Global Market. The delisting will take place on or around December 6 and after that DIAL stock could possibly trade on the OTC Pink Sheets. DIAL is down 76% as of noon.

And, the house always wins in poker, but today these investors are smiling, too:

  • Penn National Gaming Inc. (Nasdaq: PENN) is one of today's biggest winners after the operator of 29 casinos and racetracks announced it would split into two companies. Penn will place 17 properties into a real estate investment trust (REIT), creating the first casino-focused REIT. Penn National investors will receive a dividend of about $5.35 a share and stock in the REIT. PENN stock is up 30% as of noon.

By noon the Dow Jones was down 49 points, or 0.39%, and the S&P 500 was down 9.03 points, or 0.67%.

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