It's already shaping up to be a bad week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) .
The index has fallen another 0.6% today as of 2:45 p.m. EDT, continuing yesterday's minor slide. From international blues to a sector pulling down the markets like an anchor, let's discuss why the Dow is down 85 points in afternoon trading.
Investor fear galore
Just as yesterday's World Bank release cast fears of sluggish global growth, today's IMF report on a slowing world economy has ratcheted up investor uncertainty. While the gloomy projections have taken the Dow down, nowhere is it more evident than in the CBOE Volatility Index (INDEX: ^VIX ) , or VIX. The markets' "fear gauge" has shot up more than 6% today so far, no doubt exacerbated by a lack of any substantive improvement emerging from Europe's ongoing economic calamity.
Unsettled investors probably aren't reassured by the impending arrival of earnings season, which numerous experts have predicted will serve up a round of disappointment. While this would open up a great opportunity to buy into the market, current shareholders have to be worried about the potential fallout of disappointing releases after the Dow's flirtation with 52-week highs. The temptation to sell now and reap the rewards is tantalizingly strong -- unless you're invested in a few certain tech stocks.
Tech troubles imminent
The tech sector has truly put a damper on the Dow. Index laggard Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) has plunged to a 52-week low and leads all 30 member stocks with losses of nearly 2.8%. Bernstein Research cut the stock's rating to "underperform," worrying about the company's involvement in a slowing PC market.
Nonetheless, I'd still call Intel's future much brighter than fellow tech company Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which is down 0.75% to a 52-week low and has become a familiar face on the "Dow loser list" over the past week. With this, along with CEO Meg Whitman's remarks about HP's tough future and the bleak growth of the PC market, it's tough to imagine investors having confidence in HP's direction. The dire outlook of the company makes future share price drops seem all the more probable.
In a morsel of good news, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) has eked out gains of almost 1%, making it one of only six Dow stocks up on the day. Overall, however, the Dow's performance today simply makes investors want to turn the page to tomorrow. With a full third of the index falling more than 1%, investors have to wait this session out and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
What's the next step?
Fortunately, you don’t have to blindly subject your portfolio to the ups and downs of a temperamental market. Information makes the difference between smart investors and market victims, so pick up what you need to know in the Fool’s premium guides to Intel and Microsoft. Both reports explore the opportunities for success or failure confronting these tech titans, so step up your game and pick up these reports today.