The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) , which outperformed most other indexes last year, saw a reversal of fortunes today. The blue-chip-laden index dropped by 0.02% while the S&P 500 was up 0.29% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 0.81%.
Who's to blame? The U.S. budget should fall near the top of that list. Boeing (NYSE: BA ) was the Dow's biggest tumbler today, falling 1.08%, while defense industry peer United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) saw a 0.96% decline of its own.
Both stocks were reacting to a joint press conference featuring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and President Obama. Their message was simple: Expect more program cuts and defense reductions in the fiscal 2013 budget. While the specter of cuts has long loomed over the defense industry, today's conference was just one more signal that not only is defense in for a long round of protracted cuts, but the nature of the industry is also changing. Obama emphasized more small-scale operations and strengthening the United States' presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Radical changes away from big-budget programs can be a threat to the dominant players of the industry.
In addition, even though crude oil was up as markets opened, energy giant Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) posted a 0.98% drop. Refiner Tesoro (NYSE: TSO ) warned of an unexpected fourth-quarter loss, which shook up the entire energy industry. In Chevron's case, Tesoro's weakness hinted at shortfalls in downstream business. After a volatile 2011 in the energy markets, instability is rearing its head just days into the new year.
That's it for today's check-in of the Dow's biggest laggards. While the day-to-day ups and downs of the market can be exciting, if you're looking for a long-term stock pick, our chief investment officer has identified his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock he likes in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Get access to the report and find out the name of this legendary company.