After a huge move higher on Friday, it's only natural for the stock market to take a break today. Stocks managed to rise briefly before giving way in the face of some disturbing economic data. The ISM manufacturing index sank below the key 50% level, indicating the possibility of a contraction in the manufacturing industry. That brought the U.S. in line with similar slowdowns in China and elsewhere. Following the report, stocks fell, and as of 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down about 55 points.
Among Dow stocks, DuPont (NYSE: DD ) was the biggest loser, falling nearly 3% after getting an analyst downgrade. Analyst firm Jefferies pointed to the European crisis as a potential contributor to falling demand, as well as falling prospects for titanium dioxide, a pigment that has helped drive DuPont's positive results for a while. More companies could follow DuPont's lead if recent measures in Europe aren't successful in turning things around on the Continent soon.
The biggest gainer on the day so far was American Express (NYSE: AXP ) , up about 0.8%. The company has done very well in 2012 on the back of an improving credit picture for U.S. consumers, but its real potential comes from its initiatives on the prepaid-card and mobile-payment fronts. AmEx needs to get in front of the curve in order to grab back more of the market from Visa and MasterCard (NYSE: MA ) going forward, especially as MasterCard joins up with Deutsche Telekom in a European mobile payment partnership.
Finally, Boeing (NYSE: BA ) is down almost 1% after reports that rival Airbus is planning to build a $600 million production facility in Alabama. With expectations to begin assembly of A320 planes at the plant by 2015, Airbus clearly wants to establish a presence in Boeing's home country, especially given the importance of U.S. airlines in Airbus' potential success going forward.
Riding the bumps in the road
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