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Following a somewhat momentous day for the stock market, investors appear to be taking a breather today. After making a brief up-move yesterday to challenge the 13,000 mark, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down 12 points at around 2 p.m. EST to 12,953.
Among Dow stocks, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) was particularly weak, falling another 2% after shedding more than 4% yesterday following its disappointing earnings report. The retailer saw a nice jump in sales, but in order to get them, Wal-Mart had to lower prices aggressively during the holiday season, sacrificing profit margins. Until the discount giant can establish pricing power, investors may remain leery of making big bets on Wal-Mart.
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) fell 1.5% after Dell reported weak earnings results. Despite making a forecast for 2012 that exceeded consensus estimates, Dell is still struggling to move beyond its commodity-PC business into the higher-end enterprise equipment and services business. Analysts were quick to downgrade Dell, whose shares lost almost 6%. The collateral damage on Intel reflects the chip giant's domination of the PC market, as concerns about the PC industry generally reflect on Intel's future prospects as well.
Finally, 3M (NYSE: MMM ) rose slightly in early afternoon trade. The company announced a partnership with Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) to produce more cost-effective, higher-performance fuel tanks for vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. For Chesapeake, the benefits are obvious, as any incentive to use more natural gas should help the energy producer. But the move also helps 3M bolster its presence in the alternative-energy market.
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