Why the Dow's Playing a Waiting Game This Morning

After a terrible performance for stocks last week, investors may have hoped for a bounce to start the new week off on the right foot. Yet despite reports that Chinese exports have strengthened -- a good sign for the global economic recovery -- U.S. investors appear fixated on what could be a lengthy stalemate in negotiations over the coming fiscal cliff. Until that's resolved, you can expect to see a lot of reluctance to put money in stocks, and today's market action seems to reflect that, with the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) down about 25 points as of 11 a.m. EST.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) bounced back about half a percent after it plunged on Friday when its earnings failed to meet expectations. The company's latest relief, Wreck-It Ralph, managed to stay in second place, only trailing the latest installment of the decades-long James Bond series. As Fool contributor Tim Beyers noted over the weekend, Disney's merchandising might often gets overlooked, but it's a huge asset that Disney uses to the fullest extent possible.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) fell 1.5% after CEO Steve Ballmer said early sales results for the company's new Surface tablet were "modest." Microsoft also announced 4 million upgrades to the company's Windows 8 operating system, but investors have to be concerned about Microsoft's failure to get enough tablets to retail outlets beyond its online store and some U.S.-based Microsoft stores. Without a real success, Microsoft may not have many more chances to make an impact in the mobile-device market.

Finally, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) both managed to gain a little ground after a particularly bad week. Crude-oil prices climbed a bit to push further past the $86 per-barrel level, but if businesses are pulling back on anticipated projects due to concerns about the fiscal cliff, then energy demand could fall still more, leading to further pressure on revenue and profit at the two oil giants, as well as their smaller peers.

Don't give up
Even with the market failing to give investors a relief rally, the key to smart investing is to focus on the individual stocks you're interested in. For instance, Microsoft has counted on Windows 8 and the Surface tablet to deliver strong results, so if they're falling short, should you sell Microsoft right now? In our brand-new premium report on Microsoft, our analyst explains that the company faces some huge challenges. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so be sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.


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