Why 3 Stocks Are Dragging Down the Dow

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) can't manage to keep yesterday's rally going, even with decent jobs numbers today. As of 1 p.m. EDT, the index is at 13,195, down 38 points, or 0.29%. The U.S. economy added 171,000 jobs in October, and while the numbers for August and September were adjusted higher due to an increase in the number of people looking for a job, the unemployment rate climbed from 7.8% to 7.9%. This has increased the level of uncertainty about the strength of the economic recovery. Fear and uncertainty go hand in hand, and neither is good for the market.

Seventeen of the Dow's 30 components are trading lower in today's session, three of which are Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , and Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) .

So why are they down?
Now that all the major oil companies have announced third-quarter earnings, we have seen the theme of lower production and falling prices as the leading cause for poor results. Chevron, which is down 2.3% today after announcing earnings this morning, posted quarterly revenue that dropped $5.6 billion from the same period last year. The company earned $2.69 per share compared with $3.92 per share last year. The biggest sector of the company's operations to take a hit was the refining, marketing, and chemical unit, which saw profit drop 65%.

ExxonMobil, the largest oil company by market value, posted earnings yesterday that were also unimpressive, but after Chevron also showed disappointing results, investors may be feeling the downturn is not company-specific, but industrywide. Exxon's shares were relatively flat yesterday but have moved lower by 0.97% so far today.

Lastly, Travelers Insurance is also moving lower, down 0.03% after recovering from heavier losses this morning. Shares are being sold and bought wildly while the speculation continues on how much the storm will cost the company. But investors should keep in mind that insurance companies are going to pay, and as my Fool colleague Amanda Alix notes, the storm was downgraded prior to hitting land and therefore, in the eyes of the insured, was not a hurricane. This means that the insurance companies will be responsible for more, and the customers will have lower deductibles. Another thing to remember is that the full cost of the storm will not be known for an extended period of time.

All the speculation on what the insurance companies will be responsible for is just that -- speculation. The big companies plan for these types of events; that is their business. So the panic buying and selling of insurance companies should not be something long-term investors get caught up in.

Foolishly investing
While the big oil companies might not be having the best day, week, or even quarter, a few smaller players are positioned to benefit in a big way when the price of oil rebounds. So if you're on the lookout for some smaller, more intriguing energy plays, check out The Motley Fool's "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." You can get free access to this special report by clicking here.

Matt Thalman has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chevron. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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