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Overnight Markets: Microsoft leads U.S. stocks lower

Microsoft plunged 3.2% after the surprising departure of Steve Sinofsky, head of the Windows unit.

Overnight Markets: Microsoft leads U.S. stocks lower

Wall Street declined on Tuesday, led by a slide in Microsoft shares, as concern about the federal budget debate erased a rally led by Home Depot Inc.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59 points, or 0.46%, to 12,756 at the close. The S&P 500 .SPX dropped six points, or 0.40%, to 1,375. The Nasdaq Composite lost 20 points, or 0.70%, to 2,884.

Concerns about the "fiscal cliff" continued to weigh on markets as policymakers returned to Washington after the presidential elections. It is still unclear how a divided U.S. Congress will deal with the series of mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that start to take effect next year.

Equities gained earlier as Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told a European Parliament hearing that Monday’s euro-area meeting was “constructive” and he expects an accord to be reached on rescue funding at a 20 November meeting.

Microsoft Corp plunged 3.2% after the surprising departure of Steve Sinofsky, head of the Windows unit, weighing on the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Cisco Systems Inc. jumped 6.9% after the market close after the company reported a quarterly profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates.

After the closing bell, Cisco Systems surged 6.8% after it reported quarterly revenue and earnings that beat analysts' estimates.

Dow component Home Depot Inc surged 3.6% after the retailer raised its full-year outlook even before accounting for any future lift in sales in the aftermath of super storm Sandy. TJX Cos added 2.7% after it reported results that beat analysts' forecasts.

AK Steel Holding shares fell 17.6% after the company forecast a fourth-quarter loss.

Weatherford International Ltd. lost 16% as the world’s fourth-largest oilfield-services provider reported a third-quarter revenue of $3.82 billion that was lesser than estimated.

In Asia, shares gained on Wednesday as surge in financial shares overshadowed declines at industrial and raw- material companies.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.2 percent to 120.23 as of 12:49 p.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average was little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 0.2% as a survey showed consumer confidence surged to a 19-month high as central bank interest-rate cuts boosted household optimism.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.7% and China’s Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2%. South Korea’s KOSPI Index was down 0.02%.

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