The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) seemed stuck in reverse this morning, with European leaders failing to meet investors' expectations for further stimulus. When European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged last week to "do whatever it takes" to preserve the euro, investors expected stronger action than his latest move. Today, the ECB indicated it would purchase Spanish and Italian government bonds to drive down borrowing costs, providing only short-term relief for a long-term problem. The announcement added to investors' disappointment after the Federal Reserve similarly decided to hold off on further stimulus yesterday. Markets look defensive this morning, with the Dow and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) both trading down about 1.2% as of 1:30 p.m. EDT.
At first, the construction giant Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) seemed oblivious to the market's disappointment, but by the afternoon even it was in the red. The economic bellwether crushed earnings expectations last week, helping contribute to a surge that included the best two-day market stretch this year. Caterpillar, one of the world's largest heavy equipment makers, doubled from $60 to $120 during the Fed's second round of quantitative easing, so the announcement of a third round of stimulus could greatly benefit this company.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) followed behind Caterpillar, faring better than most other Dow stocks but still falling 0.25%. HP won a court ruling against Oracle, requiring the software company to continue supporting HP servers on Intel's Itanium chips. Hailed as a "tremendous win" by the company, HP will likely demand $4 billion in damages. As expected, Oracle will appeal the decision.
In another legal mess, chemical giant DuPont (NYSE: DD ) fell 2% after losing a patent-infringement trial to rival Monsanto. DuPont was ordered to pay $1 billion to Monsanto for violating Monsanto's patent protecting its herbicide-tolerant soybeans. These Roundup Ready crops have been a boon for Monsanto and a major reason the company pulled in $13.7 billion in revenue over the last 12 months. The decision represented the largest jury verdict this year and fourth largest jury award in a patent trial in U.S. history.
With messy lawsuits and Fed announcements sending markets all over the place, sometimes the individual investor seems lost. However, being a small investor gives you certain advantages over the investment houses down on Wall Street. We discuss these advantages, and three stocks that have slipped by Wall Street, in The Motley Fool's latest special report: "Middle-Class Millionaire-Makers: 3 Stocks Wall Street's Too Rich to Notice." Previous special reports have been read by thousands, and you can be one of the first to read this brand-new special report, so get your copy today.