Investors who claim markets are perfectly rational would have a hard time explaining where we find ourselves at midday today. Despite negative economic news coming from multiple continents, U.S. stock markets are off to a strong start today. Approaching afternoon on the East Coast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) has added to initial gains, gaining nearly 0.9% so far today. Similarly, both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 have also jumped midday to the tune of 0.6% and 0.8%, respectively. Adding to the bullish case, the market's "fear gauge," the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX ) , also traded lower by 1.4%. Sounds great across the board, right? Not so fast.
In stark contrast to the market's ebullient rise, today's newswire paints a bearish picture. Since the start of the day, we've seen nothing but negative news emerge on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe -- the main driver of the market lately -- Spanish borrowing costs flirted with the dangerous 7% threshold, only days after the country announced arrangements for $100 billion in relief for its troubled banking system. Although it's impressive (that's a lot of zeros), clearly credit markets aren't quite as awed. Borrowing costs rising to unsustainable levels is especially worrying since Spain still needs to refinance 82.5 billion euros' worth of debt by year-end, making further deterioration of the already-fragile fiscal situation seem all the more plausible. Stateside, American jobless claims also came in higher than expected, rising to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. Economists had forecast only 377,000.
The rest of the story
Turning to individual stocks: Shares of Finnish phone maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) have plummeted around 17% so far today on news that the company projected a wider-than-expected loss in its present quarter. CEO Stephen Elop also announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs, on top of the 14,000 cuts he announced last year. The company, which in many ways has become the Hewlett-Packard of mobile technology, finds itself increasingly on the losing end of the mobile revolution as devices like Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android-based smartphones continue to gain traction at Nokia's expense. The proof's in the pudding, too. According to market research firm IDC, Nokia's share of the global smartphone market dropped to 6.8% in the first quarter of 2012, down from 26% in Q1 2011 as Apple and Google both increased their leadership in this burgeoning market.
What it all means
Europe, Europe, Europe. Growing concern over the European debt crisis has been in the market's driver's seat over the last quarter and looks to continue in the short term, which could mean a further market pullback. And while we all hate to see our holdings fall, it also creates an opening for the intrepid buyer. Quality, dividend powerhouse stocks, the kind you love to hold for the long term, are cheap and could conceivably get cheaper yet. The Fool's recent blue chip research report explains exactly why right now's the perfect time to develop a shopping list of long-term winners you'll want to grab at historically low prices. We detail three opportunities in greater detail, which you can read all about by grabbing your free copy here today.