Millions of people follow the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), yet many don't know about the strange quirk that the Dow has. Because it's a price-weighted average, the Dow gives a lot more importance to the highest-priced stocks among its components, while even big moves among its lowest-priced stocks have very little impact on the average.
Yet just because these stocks may not have the capacity to move the Dow very far doesn't mean they aren't important from a broader market perspective. Let's take a closer look at the three lowest-priced stocks in the Dow and examine what's going on with these key companies.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA): $8.85
Aluminum giant Alcoa has the lowest share price among the 30 stocks in the Dow, but it's the Dow's smallest stock in another way: No other Dow component has a smaller market cap. With its shares worth just $9 billion, Alcoa has lost much of its importance in the past five years, having seen its stock plunge from as high as $40 per share.
Admittedly, Alcoa is suffering from cyclical problems in its industry. But even considering its particular challenges, longer-term trends seem to be against the aluminum maker's future success even once it benefits from a stronger economic recovery. Alcoa may not be down for the count, but it's hard to expect much from it over the long haul.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC): $8.93
In stark contrast to Alcoa, Bank of America's share price is deceptively small. With a market cap of nearly $100 billion and more than $2.1 trillion in assets, Bank of America is clearly still among the major banks in the nation.
But the tough times aren't over for B of A. As the New York Attorney General's lawsuit yesterday against rival JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) shows, the book hasn't closed on the financial crisis just yet. And with other potential scandals, including LIBOR-fixing allegations, looming on the horizon, B of A could face further challenges in the near future.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ): $17.13
Tech giant HP can't catch a break. Just when it seems like the struggling tech company has turned a corner, something pulls the rug out from under bullish investors.
Today, the downer came from CEO Meg Whitman, who told analysts at HP's annual investor meeting that profits for its 2013 fiscal year would come in around 15% below what most pros were predicting. Shares plunged more than 10% in afternoon trade as investors tried to find comfort in the idea that it will take HP longer than they would like to revamp its product lines and find a pathway to stronger profitability.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns warrants on JPMorgan Chase. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.