Why the Dow Fell Today

The market was mixed today as the Dow and S&P 500 fell, but the Nasdaq gained a bit:

Index

Change

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) -55.78 [-0.45%] 12,359.92
Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC  ) +4.36 [+0.16%] 2,674.22
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) -3.25 [-0.25%] 1,277.81

If you've kept up on the day's news, you may be surprised that only the Nasdaq gained today. After all, the biggest news of the day was positive: December jobs numbers were better than expected. The U.S. added 200,000 jobs (212,000 in the private sector minus 12,000 lost in the government). The resulting unemployment rate dropped to 8.5%.

So why did the Dow and S&P 500 drop? Some will blame the specter of Europe for the fall, but I don't think there's any one reason -- just the complex inter-workings of millions of individual transactions. Rather than focus on that, let's look at how individual companies did.

In the Dow, 22 out of 30 stocks lost ground today. The biggest drops were from AT&T [-2.4%], Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) [-2.1%], and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) [-2.1%]. Note that Alcoa reports earnings on Monday to kick off the latest earnings season. Bank of America's drop comes as the White House refuted speculation of a huge mortgage-refinancing program (the speculation had led Bank of America shares to pop 8.6% yesterday). Rumors giveth and they taketh away.

Meanwhile, tech kingpin Microsoft led the winners with a 1.5% gain.

It's fun to look at the daily market news, but remember to keep your perspective and invest for the long term. 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.

Anand Chokkavelu and The Motley Fool own shares of Microsoft and Bank of America. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. 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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