Why the Dow Was Flat Today

Markets were mixed today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) fell 11 points or 0.09%, while the S&P and the Nasdaq both posted small gains. After four straight days of gains on a strong July jobs report and increased hopes for economic stimulus, the Dow seemed due for a pullback.

Stocks moved strongly out of the gate this morning on some positive macroeconomic news. Initial unemployment claims came in at 361,000, 14,000 below market expectations and 6,000 below last week's total, and the numbers could reflect further improvement in hiring, as we saw in last week's jobs report. Meanwhile, the Dept. of Commerce reported that the trade deficit had unexpectedly shrunk to $42.9 billion in June on lower oil prices and increased exports.

That report also showed exports to China sliding 4% while that country reported lower auto sales and factory output. There was also negative economic data out of Europe, including Greek unemployment rising to 23.1% and 55% for Greeks under 25.

Looking at individual stocks, Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) was the big winner on the day, moving up 3.2% after receiving upgrades from Goldman Sachs and Piper Jaffray on reports showing increased demand for its data center products. The tech titan, which has also announced plans to lay off 1,300 employees to cut costs, reports earnings next Tuesday. Analysts are expecting $0.46 per share on $11.6 billion in revenue.

On the other side of the ledger, American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) led the losers, falling 2.5% on the day after CEO Ken Chenault said that growth in the company's billing business slowed in July due to global economic weakness. Visa (NYSE: V  ) also fell 2% on the news.

Outside the Dow, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) agreed to pay a $22.5 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission to resolve charges that it surreptitiously bypassed the privacy controls on Apple devices such as the iPhone. While this is not the first time Google has been in hot water for privacy violations, the fine amounts to just a slap on the wrist for a company worth over $200 billion.

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Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Cisco Systems, Apple, and Google. The Fool has created a bear call spread position in American Express. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, and Visa. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a write covered strangle position in American Express. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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