So much for a winning streak. For a while, the stock market looked like it would make it two days in a row, with a nice gain early in the day. But later in the day, investors apparently chose to focus on more troubling issues like the sovereign debt crisis, and in doing so pulled share prices down. By the end of the day, the Nasdaq Composite (INDEX: ^IXIC ) was down more than a quarter percent, but the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) suffered a loss of only 2 points to close at 12,503.
A few Dow stocks deserve particular blame for the pullback. Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) was the big loser on the day, falling more than 1% on a bad day for materials stocks overall. It's true that Alcoa is economically sensitive and suffers from big-picture macroeconomic concerns. But with 72 million shares sold short, a lot of bearish bets are already out there -- and have paid off hugely in the past year. What's unclear is how much further it could fall, as aluminum demand is highly unlikely to dry up completely.
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) lost three-quarters of a percent. A report from staff members at the FDA said the pharma company's neurodegenerative drug tafamidis should not be approved. The drug will go before an advisory panel on Thursday before being considered for a final decision by the FDA in the near future. The drug isn't a huge deal for Pfizer, but with some of its big sellers coming off-patent, the company needs all the help it can get.
Finally, DuPont (NYSE: DD ) lost more than half a percent today. Yesterday, Fool analyst Jacob Roche noted that the long boom in farm products in recent years has helped boost farmers' fortunes and led DuPont and some of its peers to increase capacity. Yet as the boom starts to slow down, it could lead to problems for companies that have relied on good times for their profits. DuPont is highly diversified, but a slowing agricultural industry would still have a noticeable impact on its business.
A near breakeven day is better than a big drop. But in the long run, you're better off trying to find stocks you think will produce strong results over the long term.
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