Why the Dow Is Tanking

As the first month of 2012 comes to a close, January is looking to wrap up a historic performance. But before the month is relegated to history, we still have one trading session left, several big earnings releases, optimism emanating from Europe, and pessimism over U.S. housing prices.

But before we jump into the morning's events, let's see how the three largest indexes are faring after the first hour-and-a-half of trading.

Index

Gain/Loss

Gain/Loss %

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) (46.88) 0.37% 12,606.84
Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC  ) 9.07 0.32% 2,802.87
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) 3.24 0.25% 1,309.77

Yahoo! Finance as of 11 a.m. EST.

All three indexes are attempting to finish a hugely positive month on an up note, but housing data may be dashing that possibility. The Dow and the S&P 500 are looking at their largest monthly percentage gains since 1997, and the Nasdaq since the go-go tech boom days of 2001. The 30 Dow stocks opened up roughly evenly divided in gainers and decliners, although poor quarterly results are weighing down a few individual securities.

For instance, oil giant ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) reported quarterly results that saw revenue grow 16%, topping analyst estimates, and earnings per share increasing 6.5%. As with its integrated competitors, refining operations weighed on results, production was lighter than anticipated, and an $800 million asset sale skewed the results favorably. As a result, shares are down 1.4% this morning.

From Big Oil troubles to Big Pharma problems: Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) reported its first quarter in which top drug Lipitor was subjected to generic competition. As anticipated, it was not pretty. Sure, Pfizer topped estimates, but before anyone goes looking for high fives, realize that earnings were slashed in half. Up next for Pfizer is divesting its animal health and nutrition businesses as it raises cash and restocks its pipeline, but investors shouldn't expect any resolution there until midsummer at the earliest.

Optimism that a resolution to the Greek debt saga might be near had markets up early, but the release of the S&P/Case-Shiller housing index showed that November home prices declined 0.7%, 0.2% more than anticipated. What is more alarming is that this decline is accelerating, dashing the notion that we have hit a bottom in home prices. The market may have been dominated by fairly strong earnings reports this month, but macro data like this shows the U.S. economy still has a long way to go.

For more earnings-season-related ideas, check out the Fool's "Fourth-Quarter Earnings Report: 7 Stocks You'll Want to Watch." In the video, you'll find information on this quarter's possible big performers. It's completely free for our readers, so access your free report now.

David Williamson owns shares of Pfizer, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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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