3 Dow Losers That Missed Today's Rally

It's always amusing when the stock market gets close to big, round numbers. In the latest go-round in the flirting contest between the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) and the 13,000 level, the market measure got another step closer, finishing the day up 46 points to 12,985 -- another multiyear closing high.

But many stocks missed out on the fun. Let's take a closer look at three of the worst performers in the Dow today.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , down 6.5%
The biggest loser by far in the Dow today was Hewlett-Packard, which reported earnings last night. From the stock's reaction, you'd think the news was universally bad, but as usual, the story at HP is a bit more complicated.

Sales and earnings both fell year over year, and the company issued disappointing guidance for the coming quarter as well. It's no shock that HP's legacy PC business was weak, but the company also posted sales declines in its systems and server businesses. It's increasingly apparent that HP needs to stress its software and services segments -- areas that are actually providing growth -- to have a chance at avoiding the fate of commodity PC makers.

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , down 1.5%
Pfizer faces many of the same economic challenges as its drugmaking peers and other large companies in general. But amid patent cliffs and U.S. health-care reform, one consideration many have ignored is European budget cutting.

With European governments looking at various austerity measures, Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies could see pricing pressure from the Continent. Although Pfizer isn't likely to get hurt as much as European rivals Novartis (NYSE: NVS  ) and AstraZeneca, budget cutting could still represent yet another hurdle in Pfizer's strategy to maintain profitability after the loss of patent protection on Lipitor.

United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) , down 0.6%
Another sector having to deal with budget cutting is defense. But the news hitting United Technologies today has more to do with the guidance it gave today.

Strangely, one would have thought the stock would move up. United Tech boosted its earnings-per-share outlook by a dime to $5.40 to $5.60 per share. It also said that it wouldn't have to issue as much new stock to close on its acquisition of Goodrich, which it expects to complete around the middle of the year. Yet longer-term, looming concerns about defense budgets have weighed on the stock for months, and until there's a final resolution -- something that's difficult to foresee in an election year -- investors may remain nervous.

What will Friday bring?
These stocks missed out on today's jump in the Dow, but who knows what will happen tomorrow? If you invest for the long haul, don't get hung up in all the day-to-day meanderings of the market. Instead, read The Motley Fool's latest special report and learn the names of three stocks that you can ride to riches. The report is free -- but don't wait: Read it today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger prefers winners. You can follow him on Twitter. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer and Novartis. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 Fool's disclosure policy is always a winner.


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