Should the Dow's Down Streak Scare You?

After impressive gains following coordinated action from the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and the Chinese government to stimulate the world economy, the stock market has finally taken a much-deserved break from its bull run. For the fourth day in a row, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) lost ground, adding another 44-point drop to its triple-digit decline from yesterday.

Whenever you see a string of several down days in a row, many investors start jumping to conclusions and thinking that the end of the long bull market is upon us. But put some of today's losses into a broader perspective, and you'll get a much different picture of where we stand.

American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) , for instance, fell 1.7% today. But over the past year, AmEx has climbed more than 20% on hopes that its focus on mobile payments will help it catch up with some of its larger credit card network rivals.

Similarly, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) gave back about 1.2% on fears that optimism in Europe may have proved to be premature. Yet with a gain of 36% since this time last year, you could have several days of pullbacks before long-term investors would have much cause for alarm. Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) , which fell 1% today, has given investors even more cause for celebration, with a 46% rise in the past year coming from higher rates on insurance coverage and a much better year on the claims side than the company's disaster-filled 2011.

Another positive sign came from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . In early trading, the stock was down sharply, but it finished the day up more than 2%. Despite its chronic underperformance, HP still has a chance to redeem itself if it can finally give investors what they want to see: a solid strategy to lead the company out of its malaise and toward more profitable lines of business.

Don't let streaks scare you
Regardless of whether the losses of the past several days are an isolated event or the beginning of a larger correction, you can respond accordingly to make the most of the opportunities that falling stock prices bring. For instance, after Bank of America's surge so far this year, many investors wonder whether it's still a good deal. Our top analysts have an opinion, and you can read all about it in the Fool's premium report on Bank of America. With a year's worth of free updates, don't miss this opportunity. Click here to get started.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing a covered strangle position in American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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