* Home Depot shares rally after results, outlook
* Microsoft stock drops on executive exit
* Dow off 0.3 pct, S&P off 0.3 pct, Nasdaq down 0.6 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Nov 13 Retail stocks, led by a jump in
Home Depot shares, curbed Wall Street's decline on Tuesday as
concerns about the looming "fiscal cliff" weighed on sentiment.
Investors continue to gauge how a divided U.S. Congress will
deal with a series of mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that
start to take effect next year and could take the world's
largest economy back into recession.
Microsoft further dragged on technology shares and the
Nasdaq after the surprising departure of an executive who had
been seen as CEO material.
Home Depot raised its full-year outlook, adding to
signs of a rebirth of the U.S. housing market, driving the Dow
component's stock to a level not seen since April 2000.
"Stronger retail sales in the fourth quarter portend well
for equity performance in the fourth quarter, under the
parameters of a normal scenario," said Quincy Krosby, market
strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
She said the market's reaction is not larger on the upside
"because of the macro-economic/political underpinning" regarding
the fiscal cliff.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 33.86
points, or 0.26 percent, to 12,781.22. The S&P 500 fell
3.57 points, or 0.26 percent, to 1,376.46. The Nasdaq Composite
Index lost 18.04 points, or 0.62 percent, to 2,886.22.
The S&P 500 is down 2.3 percent so far this month.
Dow component Home Depot Inc raised its full-year
outlook even before accounting for any future sales lift in the
aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, as the retailer benefited from a
recent uptick in the U.S. housing market. Home Depot's stock hit
an intraday high at $64.44, and was up 3.7 percent at $63.42 in
the final minutes befor the closing bell. The stock is on track
to close at its highest in more than 12 years.
TJX Cos also beat analysts' forecasts and its shares
added 2.8 percent to $42.10. The S&P retail sector index
advanced 1.4 percent.
Microsoft shares fell 3.1 percent to $27.13 after
the surprising departure of a key executive, who analysts said
marks the loss of the driving force behind the company's biggest
Technology shares slipped, with an S&P technology index
down 0.7 percent.
AK Steel Holding Corp shares fell 16.5 percent to
$4.56 after the company forecast a fourth-quarter loss.
A German government source told Reuters European countries
were considering paying Greece several aid tranches totalling
around 44 billion euros.
The comments came after a public clash between Greece's
international lenders over how Athens can bring its debts down
to a sustainable level threatened to escalate the euro zone
crisis yet again.