The Dow Can't Get a Grip

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) can't seem to figure out whether it wants to go higher or lower today. As of 2:15 p.m. EST, the index is down 24 points, or 0.18% after twice breaking into positive territory before giving back gains earlier on the day. The fiscal cliff -- a point that seemingly every investor has tired of -- continues to weigh on stocks, and most of the Dow members are in the red today.

Good news ignored
The Dow has ignored a good piece of news in its topsy-turvy day, pushing aside reports showing that consumer confidence reached its highest point in four years in November. While that's good for consumers, it hasn't done much to shake up stocks today.

The energy sector is leading the markets lower, with Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) ranking among the top Dow laggards. Shares have lost 1% so far. It's been a rather ugly three months for Chevron, as the stock has lost more than 7% over that time frame. Between an unstable economy and a push toward alternative energy, traditional energy giants have been forced to keep pace with a changing economic environment. Rival and Dow member Exxon-Mobil (NYSE: XOM  ) has done a little better than Chevron, posting a marginal gain over the last three months, but is also down more than 0.7% today.

Elsewhere among the laggards, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) continues yesterday's slide: Its shares have fallen 1.1% today. The health care giant predicted full-year earnings that fell below analyst expectations. The entire health care sector continues to adapt to the Affordable Care Act, and UnitedHealth has been hit hard since the presidential election. Over the last month, the stock is down 5%.

Wins on the day
Some Dow members have managed to make gains today. Chip maker Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) currently leads all Dow stocks higher with gains of 0.8%. While that may seem like good news, Intel has nosedived lately as the PC market continues to decline: Over the last six months, the stock has fallen 23% and hit a 52-week low last week.

Industrial players DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) and Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) have also managed to record modest gains on the day, with shares up 0.6% and 0.3%, respectively. These two stocks will be heavily hit by the fiscal cliff, should it strike, as most industrial companies are tied to the performance of the economy. Further economic slowdowns at home could send the sector into a tailspin.

Don't go it alone
When it comes to dominating markets, it doesn't get much better than Intel's position in the PC microprocessor arena. However, that market is maturing, and Intel finds will find itself in a precarious long-term situation if it doesn't find new avenues for growth. In this premium research report on Intel, our analyst runs through all of the key topics investors should understand about the chip giant. Better yet, you'll continue to receive updates for an entire year. Click here now to learn more.


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