Why 3 Stocks Are Pulling the Dow Lower

Mixed economic results, the fear of the fiscal cliff -- blah, blah, blah -- are caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) to slide slightly lower this morning. Well actually, the Dow is comprised of 30 stocks, and the index falls when those stocks fall, or it rises when those stocks move higher. While the stocks themselves may fall on news of this micro event or that macro problem, the Dow, S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all move when stocks within them are moving. So the real question is, "Why are the components inside the index moving?" Below I have explained why three of the Dow's 30 components are moving lower, thus pulling the index down as a result. But before we get to that, let's see where the Dow is now.

As of 12:40 p.m. EST, the Dow is now at 13,007 -- down 14 points, or 0.13%. So far during today's trading session, 16 of the Dow's 30 components are in the red, and I'll explain why three of those are losers today.

The Dow's big losers today
Shareholders of big pharma company Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) have seen better days, as shares have dropped 0.85% today. The fall comes after analysts at Citigroup downgraded the stock this morning. Citigroup previously rated the stock a buy on July 1, and since then shares have moved higher by 3.8%. The new neutral rating from Citigroup should not cause investors to sell and is somewhat confusing. I wonder what the analyst's investing thesis was when he made the buy call just a few months ago, how it played out so quickly, and why he decide to change the rating after such a small gain.  

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) shareholders are having another bad day also, as the stock falls 1.34%. Yesterday, news broke that Windows 8 wasn't selling very well, and now today the company oddly announces that a new version of the Xbox game console will be ready in about a year. With today's average stock only held for six months, the short-sighted shareholder doesn't want to know what will be sold next year; it wants to know what will be sold tomorrow. Today's move lower can be directly tied to those short-term traders who are bailing on the company because of the lack of a short-term stimulus.   

Shares of insurance company Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) are headed in the wrong direction today, down 0.32%. Yesterday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed emergency regulations on insurers to speed up the process of claims for those affected in his state by Hurricane Sandy. New York also setup a website that shows the number of claims, whether they have been paid out, and the number of complaints of each insurance company working with Sandy victims. Travelers currently has the third most claims with more than 36,000, as Allstate's 72,000 claims and State Farm's 48,000 claims round out the top three. Investors need to keep in mind that this is what these companies do and plan for; therefore, while this may affect short-term earnings, over the long run these claims should not make a difference to your investing thesis. 

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