3 Stocks That Pulled the Dow Down

After managing to claw back to nearly unchanged yesterday, the stock market finally gave in to selling pressure today. Even with mortgage rates hitting new record lows, evidence of any rebound in housing has been mixed at best. And now that mild winter weather has given way to more normal conditions, concerns are growing that consumers may already have front-ended their spending for the season, which could lead to weaker numbers going forward. Add all that up, and you get the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) posting a decline of about half a percent on the day.

But a few Dow stocks did even worse than that. Here's the scoop on three of them.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , down 3%
Lately, there've been a lot of legal battles among big tech companies. But whether you think that defending intellectual property is a reasonable thing to do or merely represents "patent-trolling," it still represents big money to the parties involved.

Yesterday, a lawyer for Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) said that a settlement of its lawsuit with HP "isn't going to happen." Although HP is claiming $4 billion in damages because of Oracle's decision not to support the Itanium microprocessor framework with new software development, Oracle claims that the suit has no merit. Obviously, anything can happen in a legal battle, but investors don't appear to be too optimistic.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , down 2%
Concerns about the economy have tended to pull B of A shares down lately. But some believe that the bank may be going in the wrong direction strategically.

With B of A looking to cut 3,000 more jobs, analysts at Trefis believe that the bank may now be getting to the point where further reductions won't produce enough cost savings to justify the potential loss of revenue. If cuts in investment and commercial banking along with wealth management end up costing the bank revenue -- which seems likely -- then the moves could produce net losses. Moreover, that doesn't even include a resulting loss of confidence that investors could feel. At some point, B of A needs to prove it can resume its core operations profitably and efficiently.

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) , down 1.9%
Just like B of A, Caterpillar is sensitive to economic growth around the world. Even with so much riding on tomorrow's jobs report, Caterpillar is an example of how the manufacturing sector has been boosting the economy. In March, manufacturing companies added jobs even as the retail and construction sectors showed cuts.

Going forward, though, Caterpillar needs to see strength both from the U.S. and high-growth areas such as China. Without both of those tailwinds behind it, Caterpillar could have trouble sustaining its growth -- and that's what investors seem to be afraid of today.

Tomorrow is another day
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Oracle. 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 has a disclosure policy.


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