Mixed news often produces a lack of direction in the stock market. Despite a slight 1.3% rise in home prices in the U.S., consumer confidence fell for the fourth month in a row. When you combine that with ongoing nervousness about how European nations will address the growing financial crisis across the Atlantic, you get investors who don't know which way to push stock prices. By 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones (INDEX: ^DJI ) had given up its opening gains and was down 23 points.
Within the Dow, a slight reprieve from the recent weakness in oil prices helped boost shares of Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) . But even with a slight gain, crude oil remains below the $80-per-barrel mark, and even innovation like Chevron's CiSoft initiative can't eliminate the importance of high energy prices for the oil giants' earnings.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) rose almost 1% after confirming yesterday its acquisition of social networking company Yammer for $1.2 billion. As Fool analyst Isaac Pino noted earlier this morning, Microsoft is among the cheapest stocks in the Dow, even after a roughly 15% gain so far in 2012. Whether Yammer will help Microsoft continue to produce its high returns on invested capital remains to be seen, but it's clear that the software giant needs to take steps to move forward rather than simply relying on legacy products.
Leading the way in the Dow, though, was JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , which jumped nearly 1.5% after getting an upgrade from fellow Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs. The Goldman analyst pointed to strong showings from CEO Jamie Dimon before Congress as a solid indicator of future performance and argued that the stock has been beaten down disproportionately far after its multibillion-dollar losses from its recent trading mishaps.
Don't fall flat
Just because the market isn't doing anything big today doesn't mean you can't position yourself to earn large profits in the future. The Fool's latest special report can get you moving in the right direction -- it points the way to the three Dow stocks dividend investors need. The report is absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.